Dealing with Disasters: Frequently Asked Questions

This frequently asked questions page provides information for students displaced by disasters. The questions below are linked to their answers.

  1. Enrollment and Service to Homeless Students
  2. Immunization Requirements
  3. Confidentiality/FERPA
  4. PEIMS Coding
  5. Students with Special Needs
  6. Truancy
  7. Child Nutrition
  8. Emergency School Board Meeting
  9. Migrant Student Issues
  10. Bilingual / ESL
  11. Missed Instructional Days / Low Attendance Days

Enrollment and Services to Homeless Students

  1. What is the definition of "homeless" under the McKinney-Vento Act?
    An individual or family who does not have an adequate regular nighttime residence is considered homeless. This includes people living in temporary shelters and those who use places not designed for sleeping as their regular nighttime residence, such as a car, park, abandoned building, bus, train station, airport, or camping ground. A detailed definition can be found in the U.S. Code, Title 42, Chapter 119 - Homeless Assistance. The term "homeless children and youths" applies to school aged children living under one of the conditions listed above. 

  2. Can Texas students enroll elsewhere if their home district is closed?
    If a family is homeless due to a natural disaster, the children in that family can immediately enroll elsewhere. As homeless students, these students are eligible for free-lunch programs.

    If a child's home is habitable and their school district is closed but will reopen under an adjusted calendar, and the child’s home is habitable, the child is not homeless simply because his/her school district is forced to follow a different calendar. If, however, the child in this situation enrolls in another district and then returns to his/her home district when it reopens, the child will follow the district's adjusted calendar and may ultimately go to school longer than 180 days. This situation is no different than when a child moves from one district to another during a normal family move.

  3. May incoming homeless students be served separately from resident students? 
     Please remember that federal law prohibits segregating homeless students from the general population. Separate “shelter schools” cannot be used to provide services to homeless students except in very limited circumstances. The McKinney-Vento Act does allow some services to be provided “for short periods of time” to deal with health and safety emergencies or to provide “temporary, special, and supplementary services to meet the unique needs of homeless children.” Such arrangements may be utilized for short-term services, but students expected to remain in the district for a significant period of time should be incorporated into the general population.  

  4. What policies should districts follow in determining that these are truly evacuees as a result of a natural disaster? 
    A school district or charter school may make reasonable inquiries to establish that a student is homeless. A student who is staying in a shelter or who recently began sharing the housing of other persons due to being displaced by a disaster qualifies as homeless. It is reasonable to accept identification showing that the parent is from the areas evacuated as evidence that a student is an evacuee eligible for services as a homeless student. A utility bill or similar documentation should not be required under these circumstances.

  5. What transportation requirements apply to homeless students?  
    Under current state law, school districts are funded for transportation based on the prior year. Districts that transport eligible homeless students during a school year will receive transportation funding for those additional transportation services at settle-up, which occurs in the fall following the close of the school year. An eligible homeless student rider must be a child or youth who has been identified by the district’s homeless coordinator as meeting the criteria established in Public Law 107–110, Title X, Part C, Section 725(2), titled the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Improvement Act (also the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), Title X, Part C), and is being transported back to the school of origin/last campus attended. The location where the homeless student is residing at the time the student is classified as homeless, must be a location that is two or more miles from the campus to which the student is being transported (school of origin/last campus attended) or in a district school board-designated hazardous traffic area within two miles of the campus. Questions regarding classification of a student as homeless should be made to the Texas Homeless Education Office (THEO)

  6. Is Title I, Part A required to provide services to these students in homeless situations caused by a disaster like any other homeless student?   
    Yes. All homeless students, including those students who, for example, meet the definition as a result of evacuating their homes due to a fire or hurricane, must be served with Title I, Part A funds regardless of the campus they attend. Students enrolling in Title I-served campuses will receive their Title I services through the schoolwide or targeted assistance program on that campus. Students enrolling in non-Title I campuses are to receive Title I, Part A services from the district’s homeless student reservation.  

  7. If the distrct now has more students in homeless situations caused by a disaster qualifying for Title I services on non-Title I campuses than the original reservation will fund, can the district amend its Consolidated NCLB application to increase the reservation?
    Yes, if the original application has been approved and a NOGA has been issued. 

  8. What if a district has not received a NOGA on the Consolidated NCLB application and, therefore, is not able to submit the amendment in the eGrants system?
    The Local Education Agency should contact the Division of Grants Administration to determine if needed changes may be made during the negotiatin process or if the NOGA will be issued in a timely manner to allow the LEA to amend it in the near future.

  9. What types of activities or services are allowable uses of federal NCLB funds to assist these students in homeless situations caused by a disaster?
    Title I, Part A — All the students must be served with Title I, Part A funds regardless of the campus attended. The students may receive any traditional instructional services, as well as other non-traditional types of Title I services. The district should meet the needs of the student.  

    Title I, Part C — Migrant —
    While the move across school district lines in Texas as a result of the evacuation due to a natural disaster is not a qualifying move, if the student was identified as Migrant in his/her home LEA, the student is still eligible for any Migrant services while enrolled in a Texas school district. 

    Title III, Part A —
    The district may need to update its needs assessment. Changes in enrollments may have caused a need for more language acquisition instructional programs, including hiring teachers and paraprofessionals in this area. The district may wish to redirect some Title III, Part A funds from professional development activities to language acquisition instructional services.

  10. What types of non-traditional Title I services are allowable to the students in homeless situations caused by the evacuation dur to a fire or hurricane?
    An LEA may use funds reserved under P. L. 107-110, Section 1113(c)(3)(A) to provide services to eligible homeless students in both Title I and non-Title I schools that are comparable to services provided to non-homeless students in Title I schools. Services provided should assist such students in meeting the state's challenging academic content and academic achievement standards. 

    An LEA has the discretion to use reserved funds to provide a homeless student with services that are not ordinarily provided to other Title I students and that are not available from other sources. The U.S. Department of Education has stated that there is a difference between what Title I funds can support for homeless students compared with other Title I students.

    In general, provided funds are not reasonably available from other public or private sources to provide such services, the district may use Title I, Part A funds for the following types of services to meet these students’ needs: supplies and materials, eye glasses, clothing to meet a school's dress or uniform requirements, medical/dental services, immunizations and information and referrals to health and social services.

    The following expenses may not be paid using McKinney-Vento or Title I, Part A funds: utilities, rent, hotel/motel rooms, medical expenses for parents, clothing for parents, physical exam required for a student's participation in athletics and athletic uniforms

  11. What additional resources are available related to serving students in homeless situations caused by a natural disaster?
    Several resources are available at the following links:

    Guidance for the Implementation of Title I, Part A—Improving Basic Programs Operated by Local Education Agencies, questions 16, 39, 89, 109, and 142.

    Guidance for the Implementation of Title X, Part C—McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Improvements Act, Services to Children and Youth in Homeless Situations, questions 1-45.

    Texas Homeless Education Office Resources

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Immunization Requirements

How should a district or charter school enforce immunization requirements? 
Homeless students must be enrolled immediately without any delay for immunization records to be transferred. For additional information regarding immunizations, visit the Department of State Health Services Immunization Requirements page.

 Confidentiality/FERPA 

  1. May public officials conducting disaster relief activities be given access to student records?  
    Under certain circumstances, records may be released in emergency situations without consent. Additional information is available in this Family Policy Compliance Office document (PDF)on disclosures related to emergencies and disasters.

  2. May school districts and charter schools release the names of students impacted by natural disasters who have enrolled in Texas schools to reporters or others who do not need the information for health and safety related purposes? 
    No. Although student names may be “directory information” under FERPA, directory information may not be released in a manner that reveals information that is not directory, such as whether a student is “homeless”. School districts and charter schools are always encouraged to consult with their legal counsel before releasing information from student record

PEIMS Coding

For evacuees that are enrolling in public school, what student identification number should be used for school enrollment? 
Appropriate district staff should first check the identification information (name, date of birth, and student ID number), submitted on the student enrollment application, against the PID/PET databases to obtain the student identification number that has already been reported for the student by another district. Giving the student a new identification number when one already exists for this student in the TEA databases will create a second unique PID entry for the student and lead to a PID error that will be displayed on a PID/PET discrepancy report for the district. If a school is enrolling an evacuee student from out of state and/or there is no Texas public school data history for the student, then the school district will have to enroll the student using the information on the student enrollment application until records can be obtained from the prior school to verify the identification information offered.

Students with Special Needs

What services will children with special needs be eligible to receive?
A school district or charter school should make every effort to ensure that students eligible to participate in special education, gifted and talented, bilingual or English as a Seocnd Language programs receive those services. Additional services may be provided through the district/campus Title I program. Further, any student who is in a homeless situation is covered by the federal McKinney-Vento Act and is eligible to receive free school meals.

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Truancy

Will these students be subject to truancy laws at some point?

All school-age individuals are subject to compulsory attendance. However, evacuated students should be given a reasonable period of time to determine whether they will be returning to their former school district, or will enroll in another district. Truancy charges should not be filed until that determination can be made.

Child Nutrition

Will school districts and charter schools receive additional lunch program support for these students?
A district with a significant influx of students may increase its entitlement under the federal free and reduced-price lunch program automatically to the extent the students qualify as homeless. For additional information regarding  child nutrition, visit the Square Meals website.

Emergency School Board Meetings

Can our school board hold an emergency meeting? 

The Texas Open Meetings Act allows emergency meetings in response to circumstances that constitute an imminent threat to public health and safety or reasonably unforeseen circumstances. Emergency meetings may be held by telephone conference if convening a quorum in one location is difficult or impossible. Information about open meetings is available on the . You should consult with local counsel to determine whether your circumstances warrant use of an emergency or telephonic meeting.

Migrant Student Issues

  1. Should migrant recruiters attempt to locate and identify potentially eligible migrant students among the newly-arriving students displaced by a natural disaster?
    Yes, this should be done upon school enrollment

  2. How should migrant recruiters attempt to identify and recruit these families?
    As always, use the various strategies outlined in the 2011-12 Texas Manual for the Identification and Recruitment of Migrant Students. Examples are distributing the migrant-specific surveys, posting flyers at food banks and grocery stores, visiting clinics, and referrals through emergency aid organizations.

  3. Why should LEAs and ESCs attempt to locate and identify potentially eligible migrant families?
    LEAs (project districts) and ESCs (non-project districts and Shared Service Arrangements) must attempt to locate and identify families who are eligible for migrant services in order to continue those services that may have been in place in their home states as well as to connect families to instructional and social services for which they are eligible.

  4. If the family is identified as migrant, what should the current address be on the COE if the family is living in a shelter or emergency housing? 
    The recruiter should record the name and the address of the shelter or temporary housing where the family is currently residing, i.e., YMCA, 312 Pine St.

  5. What information should be entered on the New Generation System (NGS) for these migrant students?
    All COE information and any other available data that is outlined in the 2010-2011 Texas Manual for NGS Data Management Requirements.

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Bilingual / ESL

  1. Will we be given an extension for completing the initial Language Proficiency Assessment Committee responsibilities?
    YES. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) provided clarification for the four weeks as being 20 school days in the Language Proficiency Assessment Committee Framework Manual under the following sections: Home Language Survey, page 59; Responsibilities, page 64; Parent Notification, page 67; Placement, page 68. The sections stated above reference when a student enrolls in school and indicates a language other than English on the Home Language Survey, the LPAC’s time requirements begin. Within four weeks of enrollment (or 20 school days), the LPAC should review documentation of the student’s language proficiency and academic status, and recommend placement in a Bilingual or English as a second language (ESL) program as required by state law. Parental permission must be acquired within the 20-day period. The LPAC must also recommend instructional methods and interventions and determine the state criterion-referenced assessment options at the appropriate time. If the parent denies the program, the LPAC may recommend the general education classroom. Since four weeks or 20 days actually means school days, then all the school districts that have suffered this natural disaster would have sufficient time to complete the requirements of the LPAC as stated in Texas Education Code 29.053 (b) due to the fact that those four weeks or 20 days are the number of days the school districts actually hold school.

  2. The exceptions to the bilingual program and waivers to the ESL program forms are usually due to the agency on October 1. Will TEA approve an extension in submitting these forms?
    The Texas Education Agency will provide sufficient time for those districts which suffer from a disaster and need to file and exception to the bilingual program or a waiver to the ESL program to submit those forms to the agency.

  3. If the district chooses to redirect Title III, Part A funding to hire teachers or paraprofessionals, are there any limitations on those staff?
    Yes, Title III, Part A statute only allows expenditures for instructional and professional development costs that are reasonable and necessary for improving the English proficiency and academic achievement of LEP children. In addition, the non-supplanting requirement in Title III, Part A statute requires that funds not be used to pay for costs that, in the absence of the Title III program, would have been paid for with other state, local, or other federal funds. Therefore, teachers or paraprofessionals hired under Title III, Part A may serve only current LEP children and must be utilized for supplemental services only, such as supplemental tutoring or additional instruction outside of the regular classroom.

Missed Instructional Days / Low Attendance Days

What waivers will be available to districts and charter schools closed or operating with low student attendance because of natural disasters?
School districts and charter schools closed or operating with low attendance due to natural disasters may apply to the commissioner for two specific waivers.  Those waivers are for Missed Instructional Days and/or Low Attendance Days.  These waiver applications are found on the TEA State Waiver Applications page

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For more information, Email Mike.Peebles@tea.texas.gov.