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Exceptional Student Services Unit

Offices in the Exceptional Student Services Unit (ESSU)

There are three offices within the Exceptional Student Services Unit: the Office of Gifted Education, the Office of Facility Schools and the Office of Special Education. This website is a resource for teachers, administrators, and parents for students within all three offices.

Office of Gifted Education

The Office of Gifted Education administers the state's Exceptional Children's Educational Act (ECEA) in the Colorado Revised Statutes.

Administrative Units (AUs) oversee and provide educational services to gifted students. An AU is defined as a school district, a board of cooperative educational services (BOCES), or the state Charter School Institute (CSI). The Office of Gifted Education provides AUs guidance for implementation of their gifted program plan and collaborates with the AU to monitor the implementation of key requirements of ECEA.

Office of Facility Schools

The Office of Facility Schools provides systems of support for students and staff that cultivate educational environments that value relationships, compassion, and academic outcomes. The Office of Facility Schools provides guidance, monitoring, resources, and professional development for teachers and administrators and serves both special education and general education students. Facility schools are licensed by the Colorado Department of Human Services or the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and approved by the Colorado Department of Education. Facility Schools are located in day treatment, residential treatment, and hospital settings.

Office of Special Education

The Office of Special Education provides resources for teachers, administrators, and parents of students with exceptional educational needs due to a disability, or learners who are culturally and/or linguistically diverse or have some other special need. This office administers both the state's Exceptional Children's Educational Act (ECEA) and the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for children with disabilities.


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ESSU and COVID-19

COVID-19 and Gifted Education

COVID-19 and Facility Schools

COVID-19 and Special Education

  • Special Education FAQs
    Answers to frequently asked questions such as Compensatory Services, Prior Written Notice and Special Education Evaluations can be found in Special Education FAQs.
  • OSEP Q & A's
    To view OSEP issued Question and Answer documents click on OSEP Q & A's.
  • COVID-19 and Special Education
    CDE's Office of Special Education has gathered resources to help answer questions around the COVID-19 pandemic as it relates to special education.

Supporting Displaced Special Education Students

  • Supporting Displaced Students: Special Education
    There are many ways that children and families can be displaced. There are floods, fires, and other types of natural disasters that can destroy homes or make them uninhabitable for periods of time. Families can also experience hardships that result in major home life changes.


See also: CDE's COVID-19 Resources for Schools page


Medical icon in red representing COVID-19


News and Updates

Ascend Colorado (AnLar) IEP System

Ascend Colorado is the new, customized Individualized Education Program (IEP) system currently under development with the Colorado Department of Education by AnLar LLC. The new system will be available to all Administrative Units (AU) beginning July 1, 2021.

Learn more about the AnLar IEP System


Keep in Touch

AU Special Education Director of Record and Special Education Fiscal Contact Information.

ESSU must have current contact information for all Special Education Directors and Special Education Fiscal Contacts. We will share important updates and information with you through our listserv, please be sure that we have accurate, updated information. Watch for emails from CDE_SPED for updates and information.

ESSU Newsletter

This monthly e-newsletter is sent to administrators, educators, and support staff and includes information for the Office of Gifted Education, the Office of Facility Schools, and the Office of Special Education.

The newsletter features information on "Recent News," "Training and Professional Development," "OSEP Updates" and "Deadlines." Special Education Directors and Fiscal Contacts are automatically added to the Newsletter listserv.