Advisory 2019-1 Recovery High School and Students with Special Needs


The purpose of this advisory is to address special education service delivery for students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) who are attending or planning to enroll in recovery high school (RHS) programs. This guidance augments the regulations related to RHS programs, 603 CMR 54.00, which were adopted by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in February 2017.

RHS programs provide a structured plan of recovery and a comprehensive 4-year high school education for students with a substance use disorder1 or dependency. RHS programs are not autonomous schools or school districts. Additionally, they are not special education placements. They are non-special education public day programs operated by a school district or by a collaborative.2 When a student attends an RHS program, the student's school district of residence will continue to claim that student for purposes of funding under G.L. c. 70. This funding scheme is similar to the school choice program under G.L. c. 71, §12B; charter schools under G.L. c. 71, §89; and placement of a student in an approved private day or residential program under G.L. c. 71B.

RHS programs were initially established in Massachusetts in 2006 through a grant program administered by the Department of Public Health. In 2009, the legislature enacted G.L. c. 71, §91 to address some of the financial and data sharing issues that had arisen with these programs. Under G.L. c. 71, §91, RHS programs receive funds for enrolled students from the students' districts of residence (district). The amount transferred is "the state average foundation budget per pupil." Id. The relationship between students' districts of residence and the RHS program is important when determining how eligible students will receive special education and related services while enrolled in an RHS program.

As of April 2018, Massachusetts has five RHS programs, located in Beverly, Boston, Brockton, Springfield, and Worcester.3 RHS programs serve, in total, approximately 150 students throughout the Commonwealth, some of whom have IEPs.