District 65 guarantees certain rights to assist children and youth experiencing homeless in their efforts to attend school.
Choice of Schools
Each student identified as being homeless has the right to attend either the school of origin or the local attendance area school.
School of Origin: The school attended prior to the loss of permanent housing or the last school in which the child or youth was enrolled.
Local Attendance Area School: The public school where the child is presently living that any student who lives in the attendance area is eligible to attend.
Efforts will be made to keep the child in the school of origin whenever possible, unless the parent/guardian prefers a local attendance area school or if remaining in the school of origin is not in the child's best interest. After the family does find a permanent home, the child can remain in the school of origin until the end of that academic year.
School choice decisions should ALWAYS be student-centered and made on an individualized basis. Some important factors to consider include:
- child's age
- distance of travel to school - including the impact this commute might have on the child's educational experience
- personal safety
- any needs for specialized instruction or supports
- anticipated length of stay in a temporary living situation
- time remaining in the school year
- the importance of stability
The school of origin is the first option to consider when looking at which school is in the child's best interest because this school offers the most stability for the student.
Stability is crucial for academic success - every time a student changes schools he or she has the potential to lose 4-6 months of academic and developmental progress. For any student, changing schools can have major effects on students' academic, social, and emotional development. For children and youth experiencing homelessness, these effects can become even more substantial when combined with the other changes happening in their environment.
The district homeless liaisons will provide families with information to help them determine which school might be best for their child. The school of origin will be the school of choice whenever possible.
The right to immediate enrollment is designed to make sure that the child is attending school, which is the ultimate goal of McKinney-Vento.
It is important to note that the term "enrollment" applies BOTH to attending classes and participating fully in school activities.
Any child or youth experiencing homelessness has the right to enroll in the school of choice immediately even if he or she does not have the records/documents/information required for enrollment. These documents may include the following:
- medical records, including immunization records*
- proof of residency
- proof of guardianship
- previous school records
The school may ask for an address or phone number at which the school could contact the caregiver if needed. Any information the parent, guardian, or caregiver does share on enrollment will remain confidential.
*NOTE: District 65 schools do require students to have certain immunizations on record by enrollment in certain grades. A lack of immunization records will NOT prevent homeless students from enrolling in school. However, school staff should direct these students to the homeless liaison who can assist the family in obtaining the records or in getting the immunizations required.
Those children who are enrolled in their school of origin have the right to receive transportation to and from that school, even if they would have to travel across school district attendance boundaries.
The parent, guardian, or caregiver should work with the district's homeless liaison to arrange transportation with all the school districts involved (the one of the school of origin and the one where the student is presently living).
Students who attend their local attendance area school may NOT necessarily be entitled to transportation assistance to and from that school unless the district already provides transportation options for non-homeless students. If transportation is an option, students identified as being homeless must meet the same criteria as any other student to receive transportation.
If the appropriate school placement has not been determined, the child must be provided transportation to the school of origin until the placement decision has been made.
Students experiencing homelessness have the right to receive fee waivers for certain school-related expenses.
Schools often have mandatory annual fees as well as charges for events throughout the school year. Not every student's family may be able to afford these costs, but that factor alone should not prevent any student from being able to fully participate in school activities.
These waivers may cover the following items:
- breakfast/lunch programs
- instructional materials
- fees for use of school property (locks, towels, lab equipment, etc.)
- fees for field trips made during the school day or after school hours if the trip is a required or customary of a class or extracurricular activity
- fees or deposits for uniforms or equipment related to sports or fine arts programs
- fees to participate in extracurricular activities
- fees for supplies required for a particular class
- school record fees
- school health service fees
Not all charges must be waived. Some exceptions include the following:
- typical school supplies (pencil, paper, notebooks, etc.)
- library fines and other charges made for the loss, misuse, or destruction of school property
- fees for the purchase of yearbooks, pictures, or other similar items
- fees for optional travel with a school club or group of students outside school hours
- fees for admission to school dances, athletic events, or other social events
All students who qualify for free/reduced lunches or breakfasts are entitled to these fee waivers. The district homeless liaisons will work with low-income and homeless children to make sure the appropriate fees are waived.
The student's right to enroll in school includes the opportunity to fully particpate in programs offered at the school and receive any support services, such as special education, if necessary.
School districts have the responsibility to create an "equal playing field" that allows all students to access all educational services and extracurricular opportunities available to students in their schools. The services provided for children experiencing homelessness (outside the ones required by law that were listed above) must be comparable to those available to other students.
For example, if a child experiencing homelessness attends the local area attendance school, that school would only have to provide transportation options consistent with the options given to other students in the school.
The fee waivers listed above are one way schools can remove a barrier to receiving educational services and to participating in extracurricular activities.
Students experiencing homelessness are entitled to receive any specialized supports or instruction available to other students in the school, including special education and related services. The students must still qualify for these services under IDEA or Section 504.
The district homeless liaison will be able to assist staff and families in understanding what services are available and how students can benefit from them.
By law, students experiencing homelessness have the fundamental right to enroll in, get to, stay in, and be successful in school while they or their families are between permanent housing. Any decisions made regarding school choices, services, or other needed supports will be made in the child's best interest.