Homeless Education in Collier County Public Schools
McKinney—Vento Education Program
Children and youth experiencing homelessness reside in every county in Florida. In an effort to ensure the educational success of all students, school districts are required to identify and serve children and youth living in homeless situations as per the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.
The McKinney-Vento Education Program is offered to all students enrolled in the Collier County Public School District who meet the definition of homeless under the McKinney-Vento Assistance Act reauthorized in 2002. It defines homeless children as families in transition, who lack a fixed, regular, or adequate nighttime residence. Also In addition, a child who is not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian is considered an “unaccompanied youth” under the McKinney-Vento Act. A child may qualify as homeless if the child is:
- Living in a “doubled-up” situation (two or more families living together) due to the family’s loss of housing, economic hardship or a similar reason
- Living in a temporary arrangement due to the lack of adequate accommodations (e.g., car, motel, hotel, trailer park or camping grounds, or public place)
- Living in an emergency or transition shelter
- Living with a family member, or a non-family member, who is not the legal guardian of the child
- Living in a nighttime residence, not under the name of the parent or legal guardian
The ultimate goal of the McKinney-Vento Act is to remove barriers that might otherwise prevent students experiencing homelessness from enrolling, attending and succeeding in school.
District Liaison for McKinney-Vento Education Program
The District Liaison for the McKinney-Vento Education Program is dedicated to assisting families and children by eliminating barriers to school enrollment, attendance, stability, and overall academic success. The District Liaison works with the schools and families to ensure that children experiencing homelessness have the same opportunities for educational success as housed students in Collier County.
The District Liaison coordinates a variety of activities to assist school age children. Primary activities include eliminating traditional barriers to students being enrolled in school immediately. This includes such things as:
- Residency requirements
- Student records
- Immunizations or immunization records or other medical records
- Birth certificates required for school registration
- Access to school transportation
- Supplemental academic and special programs
- Free school meals
Through the support of the McKinney-Vento Education Program, the District Liaison is able to provide school supplies, hygiene kits and school uniforms to students in need, and ensures parents/guardians/ unaccompanied youth are informed of the rights of students in homeless situations.
Homelessness brings about a variety of basic needs that require service assistance beyond what schools can offer. The District Liaison works closely with social services, governmental agencies and shelter directors to provide services for children and youth. The District Liaison makes referrals to community agencies, for items such as housing, food, medical, dental and mental health services.
Community agencies play a critical role in identifying and reconnecting families, children, and youth with school services. Upon request, the District Liaison makes presentations to community agencies and groups about the McKinney-Vento Education Program and how they can assist with identification and providing children and youth the services they require.
School Liaison for McKinney-Vento Education Program
Each public school assigns a school liaison to plan and coordinate services for children and youth who are living in homeless situations. Generally, the school counselor who works with the district liaison, identifying, assessing basic needs, and providing educational intervention support as needed. Parents and guardians are informed of the educational and related opportunities available for their children, and are provided meaningful opportunities to participate in the education of their children.
Public notice of the educational rights of children and youth experiencing homelessness is displayed in poster format at schools, and provided in the McKinney-Vento Education Program Brochure.
Education Rights of Students who are Experiencing Homelessness
- Selection– Students experiencing homelessness have two school enrollment options – the school of origin or the zoned school in their new location. The school of origin is the school the student attended when they became homeless. Students who are in homeless situations can remain in their school of origin unless it is against the wishes of the parents or guardians, and only if it is in the best interest of the student. Students may remain in their school of origin the entire time they are experiencing homelessness or until the end of the academic year in which they move into permanent housing.
- Enrollment – The school district must immediately enroll students who are in homeless situations, even if they do not have required documents, including school records, medical records and proof of residency. Parents/guardians are encouraged to provide these documents in the days after the student is enrolled and attending school. For assistance with obtaining such documentation, please contact the Liaison for the Homeless Education Program at 239-377-0544
- Transportation– At a parent, guardian, or unaccompanied youth’s request, transportation is provided to and from the student’s school of origin, to the extent feasible. Feasibility is determined by considering the best interest of the student.
The District will continue to provide or arrange for transportation to and from the school of origin to formerly homeless students who have become permanently housed for the remainder of the academic year, during which the child or youth becomes permanently housed.
- Free meals – Students who are experiencing homelessness automatically qualify for free meals. Immediate eligibility is granted – no formal application is necessary.
- Dispute Resolution – Whenever a dispute arises, the student must be admitted immediately to the requested school (school or origin or zoned school) while the dispute is being resolved. When a determination has been made, the school district must provide the parent or guardian with a written explanation of its school placement decision and the right to appeal. To file a dispute, contact the District Liaison for McKinney—Vento Education Program at (239) 377-0544. The Liaison ensures that the same access to the dispute resolution process is provided to unaccompanied youth. The Liaison arranges a resolution meeting within 7 days and will provide a written resolution. In the case of no resolution, an appeal can be filed by the parent at the state level by sending the dispute to the attention of the Florida Department of Education Director of McKinney—Vento Education Program, 325 West Gaines Street, Room 352, Tallahassee, FL 32399-0400.