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Massena Central makes policy change for homeless students

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MASSENA - A change to a policy governing education of homeless children and youth places a limit on how far school districts must go to provide transportation.

Under the change approved by the Massena Central School District’s Board of Education, any homeless child who requires transportation to attend a school district outside of the district in which the child is housed, is entitled to receive the transportation.

However, Policy Committee Chairman Ronald Faucher said, the transportation cannot be in excess of 50 miles each way “except where the commissioner certifies that transportation in excess of 50 miles is in the best interest of the child.”

“We needed to incorporate the transportation guidelines which SED (state Education Department) came out with,” Mr. Faucher said.

A homeless child does not necessarily mean somebody living on the streets, but rather a child or youth who doesn’t have a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence, including a child who shares someone else’s house because of a loss of housing, economic hardship or similar reason; a child who lives in motels, hotels, trailer parks or camping grounds because of a lack of alternative adequate accommodations; a child abandoned in a hospital; a child awaiting foster care placement; or a migratory child who qualifies as homeless.

For instance, if a child lives in Potsdam and the family can’t live in the home anymore and doubles up with a relative in Massena, that child is still entitled to transportation back to Potsdam to continue his or her education.

Previously, designated districts were responsible for providing a student’s transportation if the local social service district or Office of Children and Family Services was not required to provide it. However, the school district of origin was responsible for the cost of transportation provided by the designated district.

Under the policy revision, any homeless child who requires transportation to attend a school district outside of the district where he or she is housed is entitled to receive transportation.

“If the designated school district is the school district of origin or a school district participating in a regional placement plan, such school district shall provide transportation to and from the child’s temporary housing location and the school the child legally attends,” according to the policy revision.

Any cost of the allowable transportation is eligible for state aid, as long as the approved transportation expense doesn’t exceed “an amount determined by the commissioner to be the total cost for providing the most cost-effective mode of such transportation in a manner consistent with the commissioner’s regulations,” the policy says.

Figures for the 2011-12 school year indicated that Massena had 49 students who qualified as homeless, up from 16 in 2009-10 and 32 in 2010-11.

The highest number of homeless children among 17 St. Lawrence County schools was in the Potsdam Central School District, where they had 70 in 2011-12, 55 in 2010-11 and 38 in 2009-10.

The lowest number was in the Hammond Central School District, where they had nine in 2011-12, 13 in 2010-11 and none in 2009-10.

The number of homeless for all 17 districts in 2011-12 was 528 students, compared to 336 students in 2010-11 and 193 in 2009-10.

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