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INFORMATIONAL LETTER NO.:   36

POLICY CODE:   JFABD

 

TO:                   Superintendents of Schools and School Principals

(Superintendents please forward to Principals)

FROM:             Susan A. Gendron, Commissioner

DATE:              September 13, 2005

RE:                   Update on Maine Responses to Hurricane Katrina

            The Governor’s Task Force to Assist Americans affected by Hurricane Katrina met for the second time Wednesday, September 7, 2005.   At that time, Task Force members were notified that Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the American Red Cross had suspended relocation efforts of large numbers of evacuees from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.   Therefore, for the present time at least, we are not anticipating large numbers of families from that area being relocated and enrolling children in public schools in Maine.  

            There will continue to be individual families with school age children enrolling as there has been this week.   These families will come to Maine on their own either because they already have contacts in Maine or they are responding to people in Maine who have offered to take evacuees into their own private homes.  

            As you continue to welcome and enroll students who have been relocated to Maine as a result of Hurricane Katrina, I request that Maine Department of Education be notified when students affected by Katrina enroll.

            The Maine Department of Education has received information from the Louisiana Department of Education and the Mississippi Department of Education requesting our assistance in ensuring that timely and appropriate communications are maintained regarding any students from those States that arrive in Maine and enroll in our public schools.   In order to ensure that we are able to compile an accurate accounting of all such students, and assist in the process of obtaining student records, the Maine Department of Education requests that local school officials immediately notify the Department of the enrollment of students from any of the States affected by Hurricane Katrina.  

            When evacuees are enrolled in Maine public schools, we request that local superintendents and/or building principals notify Jacqueline Soychak with the names, ages, present residence, school enrolled in, grade levels, and previous address. She can be reached at   jacqueline.soychak@maine.gov or 207-624-6734.

            Jackie has been designated by the Maine Department of Education as the single point of contact for coordinating technical support and services schools will need from the Department, as well as serving as a liaison between local schools and other State, federal and private agencies. She will be coordinating a core team of Department personnel who will provide technical assistance according to their areas of responsibility and expertise.

            The Maine Department of Education will facilitate the accessing of records for these students, including their eligibility status for any additional services. In the meantime it will be necessary for school personnel to evaluate students’ needs based on information provided by family members, or that can be identified through initial screening, in order to provide any short-term services while more complete records are being requested.

            In collaboration with a Task Force initiated by Governor Baldacci, the Maine Department of Education has begun to identify ways to support and welcome our neighbors in need for transitional services, especially education and related support services.

            The Department will provide rapid access to schools and districts to programs across our agency and whenever required services across State government, including:

            Please see the following links for additional information related areas such as nutrition, transportation, and federal flexibility:

USDA Guidance :   http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/Governance/Policy-Memos/2005-08-31.pdf

Hurricane Help in Schools:   http://www.ed.gov/news/hurricane/index.html

Immunizations from CDC:   http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters

National Center for Homeless Education:   http://www.serve.org/nche, or Hotline (1(800)-308-2145

For Psychological Distress:   http://www.7-dippity.com/other/op_storm.html

CNN   Hurricane Katrina Help Center :   http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/2005/katrina/help.center/

            The Maine Department of Education is exploring the use of technology to assist in the instruction of students in their home states through e-learning and distance learning applications.

            The Maine Department of Education is also in contact with the Council of Chief State School Officers for resources and coordination of a nationwide response by State Departments of Education in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education, including the development of “teacher kits” and “student kits” that are intended to provide quick access to much-needed instructional supplies and materials.

            Teachers from the hardest hit States seeking employment in Maine will have access to the Department of Education Certification office for processing credentials and fingerprinting requirements.

            We have been informed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that all evacuees will be automatically eligible for free and reduced meals and other food services.   We have been informed by the U.S. Department of Education that federal funds will be available through FEMA to cover increased costs that local school administrative units may incur such as portable classrooms and transportation costs.

            The US Department of Education will also work with states impacted by relocation of large numbers of evacuees to allow flexibility with regard to the requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) and the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLBA).   These considerations include highly qualified teacher requirements and can increase the percentage of funds that may be carried over to the next fiscal year.

            The Maine Department of Education will continue to be an active partner in the Governor’s Task Force and recognizes that a high priority is to keep the lines of communications open between all parties as part of any statewide plan.  

            We anticipate that further informational letters will be necessary in the coming days as the needs of families, students, and educational officials from the states affected by Hurricane Katrina become clear.   We appreciate all those who have been in contact with the Department expressing a willingness to provide educational services or to coordinate housing with families in your districts.   At this time, our best information from the Maine Emergency Management Agency is that it is unlikely that large numbers of evacuees will be coming to Maine.   But as we have already seen, the situation in the hardest hit states is still very far from clear.   We will do our best to keep you informed as the situation unfolds.