Great Neck Discusses Homelessness

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Although dealing with a homeless student is a rare issue in Great Neck, the school district has long had guidelines in place and now the district has adopted a new policy. The Policy on Homeless Students was introduced by the board of education this past fall, read for a second time in November and approved at the last public action meeting on Dec. 15. This new policy follows the new guidelines set by both federal and state law.HomelessStudents_011615A

Following a review by the New York State Department of Education, as per laws set forth by the state’s commissioner of education, an audit found ways in which the school district could better comply with the federal law in addressing the educational needs of homeless students.

“The new policy strengthens our old policy,” Superintendent of Schools Thomas Dolan told the Great Neck Record. He explained that the new policy “codifies and supports the district’s existing practices and procedures.”

While acknowledging the existence of homeless students is an unusual situation for the Great Neck community, Dolan said that it can, and does happen. However, he added that these cases are “relatively rare” and usually deal with emergency situations such as when a house catches fire and burns. In such a case, the school-age child may be housed in a hotel, or some such temporary residence, and will still need to attend school. This student is then considered a “homeless student.” That is when the policy comes into play.

The new Policy on Homeless Students recognizes the school district’s responsibility and in accordance with state and federal law insures the appropriate education for any such students. The policy includes definitions of both a homeless child and an unaccompanied child and includes the ways to determine and identify homeless students. In addition, the policy outlines the duties of the mandated local liaison for homeless children (or a homeless youth) and defines what the liaison must insure is provided for such student (all of their rights, such as identification, eligible services available, available education, transportation, legal assistance). As for transportation, the list of social services and/or school district transportation is addressed and specified.

Compiling this policy was not an easy task and Dolan attributed much of the work to his “point person,” Kelly Newman, assistant superintendent of schools, elementary.

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