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. What waivers are available to districts and charter schools that close or operate with low student attendance due to a disaster?
  2. Are students displaced by a disaster considered homeless?
  3. Can Texas students enroll elsewhere if their home district is closed?
  4. Can incoming homeless students be served separately from resident students? 
  5. What policies should my district follow to determine whether students are truly homeless due to a disaster?
  6. What transportation requirements apply to homeless students?
  7. Will school districts and charter schools receive additional lunch program support for homeless students?
  8. If my non-Title I campus qualifies for Title I funding after enrolling homeless students, can the district amend its Consolidated NCLB grant application?
  9. What services can my district provide to homeless students using of federal NCLB funds?
  10. What types of non-traditional Title I services are allowable to the students in homeless situations caused by the evacuation due to a fire or hurricane?
  11. How does student homelessness due to a natural disaster affect my district's requirement under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)?  
  12. What student identification number should be used for evacuees enrolling in public school? 
  13. What services can children with special needs receive?
  14. Will displaced students be subject to truancy laws at some point? 
  15. In the event of a disaster, can our school board hold an emergency meeting?
  16. Should migrant recruiters attempt to locate and identify potentially eligible migrant students among the newly-arriving students displaced by a natural disaster?
  17. 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? 
  18. What information should be entered on the New Generation System (NGS) for these migrant students?
  19. Will we be given an extension for completing the initial Language Proficiency Assessment Committee responsibilities?
  20. 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?
  21. If the district chooses to redirect Title III, Part A funding to hire teachers or paraprofessionals, are there any limitations on those staff? 

 

  1. What waivers are available to districts and charter schools that close or operate with low student attendance due to a disaster?
    If your district must close or has low attendance due to a disaster, you can apply to the commissioner for two specific waivers. Those waivers are for Missed Instructional Days and/or Low Attendance Days. You can find applications for these waivers on the State Waiver Types - Attendance page.

  2. Are students displaced by a disaster considered homeless?   
    Yes. Any student who does not have an adequate regular nighttime residence is defined as homeless under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Act. This includes students 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. Students who are homeless due to a disaster qualify must be provided comparable services described in subsection (g)(4) of the McKinney-Vento Act, including transportation services, educational services, and meals through school meals programs.

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

    A child who is not homeless can enroll in another district if their school district is closed but will reopen under an adjusted calendar. However, if the child returns to his/her home district when it reopens, he or she 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.

  4. Can incoming homeless students be served separately from resident students? 
    No. Federal law prohibits segregating homeless students from the general population. Districts cannot create separate “shelter schools” to provide services to homeless students except in very limited circumstances. The McKinney-Vento Act allows 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.”  

  5. What policies should my district follow to determine whether students are truly homeless due to a disaster? 
    You can 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.

  6. 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. The location where the homeless student lives at the time they are classified as homeless must be two or more miles from the campus to which the student is being transported or in a district school board-designated hazardous traffic area within two miles of the campus. 

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

  8. If my non-Title I campus qualifies for Title I funding after enrolling homeless students, can the district amend its Consolidated NCLB grant application?
    Yes, if the original application has been approved and a Notice of Grant Award (NOGA) has been issued. If your district has not received a NOGA on the Consolidated NCLB application you should contact the Division of Grants Administration.

  9. What services can my district provide to homeless students using of federal NCLB funds?
    Title I, Part A: All the students must be served with Title I, Part A funds regardless of the campus they attend. The students can receive any traditional instructional services as well as non-traditional types of Title I services. 

    Title I, Part C–Migrant:
     A student who moves across school district lines in the state due to a disaster evacuation is not considered a migrant. However, if the student was identified as migrant in his/her home district, the student is eligible for migrant services in any Texas school district. 

    Title III, Part A: 
    Your district may need to update its needs assessment. Changes in enrollments may require more language acquisition instructional programs, including hiring teachers and paraprofessionals. Your district can 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 due to a fire or hurricane?
    If funds are not reasonably available from other public or private sources to provide the following services, your district can use Title I, Part A funds for 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.

    You cannot use McKinney-Vento or Title I, Part A funds to pay for 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. How does student homelessness due to a natural disaster affect my district's requirement under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)?  
    In certain in emergency situations, school records may be released to public officials without consent. Additional information is available in this Family Policy Compliance Office document (PDF) on disclosures related to emergencies and disasters. Your district cannot release the names of students affected by disaster to the media or anyone who does not need the information for health and safety reasons. School districts and charter schools should consult with their legal counsel before releasing information from student record.

  12. What student identification number should be used for evacuees enrolling in public school
    District staff should enter the student's identification information (name, date of birth, and student ID number) submitted on the enrollment application into the PID/PET databases to find the student's existing identification number. Do not give the student a new identification number when one already exists; doing so will create a second unique PID entry, which will cause a PID error to be displayed on your district's PID/PET discrepancy report. If there is no Texas public school data history for the student, your district will have to enroll the student using the information on the student enrollment application until you can obtain records from the prior school verifying the provided information. 

  13. What services can children with special needs 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 Second 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.

  14. 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 decide whether they will return to their former school district, or will enroll in another district. Truancy charges should not be filed until that decision can be made.

  15. In the event of a disaster, 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 would be difficult. You should consult with local counsel to determine whether your circumstances warrant use of an emergency meeting.

  16. Should migrant recruiters attempt to locate and identify potentially eligible migrant students among the newly-arriving students displaced by a natural disaster?
    Yes, school districts and Education Service Centers must attempt to locate and identify families who are eligible for migrant services. You should identify migrant students during the process of enrolling displaced students.

  17. 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 currently resides.

  18. 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.

  19. Will we be given an extension for completing the initial Language Proficiency Assessment Committee responsibilities?
    Yes. State law requires a district to recommend placement in a Bilingual or English as a second language (ESL) program within 20 school days. Days your district is closed due to a weather event or disaster are not considered school days.

  20. 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?
    Yes. We will work with your district to provide sufficient time to file an exception or waiver.

  21. If the district chooses to redirect Title III, Part A funding to hire teachers or paraprofessionals, are there any limitations on those staff?
    Yes, Teachers or paraprofessionals hired under Title III, Part A may serve only current Limited English Proficient children and must be used for supplemental services only, such as supplemental tutoring or additional instruction outside of the regular classroom.