I’m an Independent Contractor and I work in the schools; how do I make money in the summer? Will there be summer work for Extended School Year? Where else can I work during the summer? These are questions I have experienced and been asked many times in the last 8 years as a contracted therapist in telepractice. There are many options and it all depends on what you want out of that time and how much income you need to replace.
Let’s talk about Extended School Year (ESY) as an option. As most of you know, ESY services look different in every school district. ESY is a part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in Sec.300.106. ESY services are provided only if the child’s IEP Team determines that the services are necessary for their provision of FAPE (Free and Appropriate Public Education). These programs are designed for students who will not retain what they have learned over an extended break. ESY services are not recommended for every child with an IEP so the services required, and the amount of therapists needed to cover these services is significantly less than what is provided during the school year. If you have an ESY assignment they typically are not all summer long. Most are between 4-6 weeks so you will still be looking at a few weeks with no income from these services.
I have provided ESY services over a couple of summers to the students on my caseload who qualified for the services and one year provided compensatory services. The nice thing about continuing with the same therapist is the continuity of care. There is no need to re-establish rapport and services can continue, though less frequently, with little or no interruption. As a therapist, this to me seems like the best option for the students. The problem, however, is not many of the students on your caseload are typically going to qualify for ESY leaving you with many hours to fill with something else. I know some of you will say, I have a full caseload this summer, and if you do, great! Enjoy it, you probably work with a more severe needs population. This is just not the norm for everyone.
OK, so what else can I do to earn money in the summer. My first summer after working in telepractice was a shock. I hadn’t even considered what I was going to do. I was so excited to be working from home, I just didn’t consider what I was going to do during the break. I had worked in a Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) and ended up doing regular PRN work for them over that first summer. It was good money because it was PRN and I knew it was only for a short while. I had gotten very used to working from home and going back to having to be somewhere at a certain time was not my idea of fun in the summer. But I was grateful for the work and it was familiar to me, so I went with it.
After that first summer, my husband and I wised up when it came to my position as an Independent Contractor. We started setting aside money for those lean months during the more abundant months. If you get paid as I did for the previous month’s work, the lean months were not June and July. They typically were August and September since I had the least amount of work in July and August. We literally have a line in our budget that says, “Janet not working” and funded it based on what we knew we were going to be doing in the summer, trips, etc., and the typical bills that needed to be paid. Having that fund REALLY took the pressure off me having to replace my whole income in the summer.
Other options I have seen is tutoring in the summer or providing services to private practice for a short time. It all depends on what is available in your area. Traveling assignments are an option as well if you have the flexibility to be able to travel. Be careful what you sign for and the length of time for those assignments. They tend to be 13-week assignments and that can run into a conflict with the start of the school year. If you can, secure an 8 or 9-week assignment that would typically be more in line with what you will need. If you choose that option, make sure you start looking early due to availability, licensing needs, etc.
My favorite option has always been, taking the summer off! I love to travel and having that time to go away and see the world, planning a short-term mission trip, or spending time with family I have all over the USA. If you can swing it financially, I would say do it! Maybe it is too late in the year for this summer but consider it for next summer. You will be glad you took time for yourself and gave yourself some R&R.
Have a Blessed and Restful Summer!
Janet L. Courtney, MS, CCC-SLP
Founder and CEO
Lighthouse Therapy LLC