New York State recently updated the Commissioner’s Regulations related to providing homebound instruction for kindergarten through age 21 students. Homebound instruction is temporary education, typically provided in the form of tutoring, to students who are medically unable to attend school and are either restricted to their homes or placed in hospitals or other institutions. Students are entitled to homebound instruction from their school district of residence when it is anticipated they will be unable to attend school in person for at least ten days during a three-month period due to illness or injury. Homebound instruction must be provided by a New York State-certified teacher.

The updated regulations include new requirements for considering parent or guardian requests for homebound instruction and the provision of homebound instruction. Perhaps one of the most notable changes is the increase to the amount of homebound instruction that must be offered to students. Effective July 1, 2023, the minimum requirements for homebound instruction at the elementary level will increase from five hours to 10 hours per week, and at the secondary level, will increase from 10 hours to 15 hours per week. Districts must begin providing instruction within five days of receipt of a parent/guardian request for homebound instruction when such requests are granted. This new requirement will compound staffing challenges for school districts struggling to secure teachers for their current home instruction caseload. One potential solution to such shortages is the explicit provision in the new regulations allowing for the delivery of homebound instruction using remote modalities.

The updated regulations also provide new procedures for parent and guardian requests for homebound instruction. Such requests must be in writing and include written medical verification from the student’s treating medical provider. Importantly, parents or guardians are now required to provide consent for the district’s medical director to directly contact the student’s treating health care provider to discuss the request for homebound instruction.  Parent or guardian requests for homebound instruction may be denied if they refuse to provide such consent. Parents or guardians may appeal a denial of homebound instruction to the school district’s board of education within 10 days of receiving the denial. Homebound instruction must be provided to a student during a pending appeal.

Upon a decision to grant a request for homebound instruction, the district must consult with the parent or guardian to create a written instruction delivery plan to continue the student’s academic progress. The plan must include the number of hours per week and per day the student will receive services, the method the instruction will be delivered, where the instruction will be delivered, and an explanation on how the services will maintain academic progress. The parent or guardian may request less than the required amount of tutoring; however, the district must review the instruction delivery plan monthly to determine whether the amount of instruction may be increased to comply with the regulatory requirements.

Many districts have existing policies or procedures related to temporary homebound instruction. It is advisable for districts to review and update such procedures to ensure compliance with the new regulations.

Harris Beach’s K-12 Education Industry Team continues to track important education issues throughout New York State. Join the team July 19 at 9 a.m. for a webinar on the 10 most cutting-edge special education issues likely to face teachers and school administrators in the 2023-2024 school year.

If you have questions about this legal alert or related education matters,  please contact Anne M. McGinnis, at (585) 419-8613 and, Jeffrey J. Weiss at (716) 200-5141 and, or the Harris Beach attorney with whom you usually work. Summer associate Dylan Feliciano contributed to this legal alert.

This alert is not a substitute for advice of counsel on specific legal issues.

Harris Beach has offices throughout New York state, including Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, Long Island, New York City, Rochester, Saratoga Springs, Syracuse and White Plains, as well as Washington D.C., New Haven, Connecticut and Newark, New Jersey.