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INFORMATIONAL LETTER: 27

POLICY CODE: JFABD

 

TO:                   Superintendents of Schools

FROM:             Susan A. Gendron, Commissioner

DATE:              September 6, 2005

RE:                    Impact of Katrina Flood Victims on Maine Schools

The nation’s schools are an important source of stability and assistance for students impacted by Hurricane Katrina. Neighboring states to Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama are experiencing the greatest impact, but school districts from our own State of Maine to California are reporting the presence of homeless evacuees requesting school enrollment.

Children and youth whose families have temporarily relocated because of the hurricane will generally meet the definition of homeless under the federal McKinney-Vento Act. Determinations of eligibility should be made on a case –by- case basis. The McKinney-Vento Act entitles eligible homeless children and youth to enroll in the school district in which they are physically present without having to document residency in the district.

Under the McKinney-Vento Act, schools must immediately enroll homeless children or youth, even if the child or youth is unable to produce the records normally required for enrollment (such as previous academic records, medical records, and proof of residency, birth certificates, or other documentation). This provision is particularly relevant to families affected by Katrina. Many of them lost such documents in the damage to their homes and many of their children’s schools are currently unable to transfer school records. Schools should work with families to gather as much information as possible. Schools should make age-appropriate placements and establish procedures for conducting a quick assessment of students’ skills, making any necessary adjustments to the student’s classes and services. Title I, Homeless set-aside funds may be used to meet the basic needs of students experiencing homelessness.

Additional federal legal requirements include equal access to transportation services, and in some instances special transportation arrangements to meet the needs of homeless students.

These families should be referred to school district homeless liaisons that are responsible for implementing the federal homeless education law provisions. Their contact in the Department of Education is Shelley Reed, Homeless Education State Coordinator, who may be reached at 624-6637, or e-mail shelley.reed @maine.gov.

The United States Department of Education is requesting that information and data regarding the numbers of students that are arriving in the State due to Hurricane Katrina be forwarded to the Homeless Education State Coordinator, so please keep track of information about these students until we send you the form that has been approved by the United States Department of Education.

The Louisiana Department of Education has informed us that thanks to their student information system, it will be able to provide data on students displaced by Hurricane Katrina to school districts that are receiving them. LDOE has developed procedures to assist school districts in the enrollment process. More information will follow in additional communication.

The National Center for Homeless Education provides assistance to schools and families and runs a hotline dedicated to answering questions about homeless education at 1-800-755-3277.

The American School Counseling Association offers these tips:

For a free downloadable version of "After the Storm -- A guide to the help children cope with the psychological effects of a hurricane", created by Annette La Greca, Scott Sevin, and Elaine Sevin, click here: http://www.7-dippity.com/other/op_storm.html

To offer support to affected areas please visit The American Red Cross at: http://www.redcross.org and/or The Federal Emergency Management Agency at http://www.fema.gov www.fema.gov .

This informational letter will be followed in the coming days by additional communication updating local school officials on developments, resources, and local planning considerations.

In addition, Governor Baldacci has formed a Task Force to better coordinate interagency responses. The Maine Department of Education will be working closely with the Task Force to ensure an effective response.