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Frequently Asked Questions: School Selection

Under the McKinney-Vento Act, students in temporary housing have the right to attend their school of origin or their local school.

  • The term "school of origin means the school where the student was enrolled when last permanently housed or the school they most recently attended.
  • The definition of a "school of origin" also includes the designated receiving school at the next grade level for all feeder schools.
  • The term "local school" means any school where permanently housed students who are living in the same area can attend.
42 U.S.C. § 11432 (g)(3)(I); Education Law § 3209(2)(a)(1)-(3).

Who decides where a temporarily housed student attends school?

In New York State, the "designator" decides which school district a temporarily housed child or youth will attend. A "designator" is:

  • the parent or person in parental relation (eg: guardian) of a student in temporary housing; or
  • the student in temporary housing, with help from the McKinney-Vento liaison if no parent or guardian is available (eg: for unaccompanied youth); or
  • the student in temporary housing, with help from the director of a residential program for runaway and homeless youth, where a temporarily housed student is living in such program.

N.Y. Education Law § 3209(1)(b).

If a student was permanently housed in one town, and later became homeless and was forced to move to another town, can the student continue to attend her original school?

Yes. Students in temporary housing have the right to immediate enrollment and transportation to and from their school of origin, the school the student attended when the student was permanently housed, or the last school the student attended. 42 U.S.C. § 11432 (g)(1)(J)(iii) & (g)(3)(A); N.Y. Education Law § 3209(2)(a).

How long can a student in temporary housing attend the designated school?

A student can attend the school of origin for the entire time the student is temporarily housed and throughout the remainder of the school year in which the student moves into permanent housing. The student can possibly attend one additional year after becoming permanently housed, if it is the student's terminal year in that school (i.e. 8th grade or 12th grade). 42 U.S.C. §1432 (g)(3)(A); N.Y. Education Law § 3209 (2); 8 N.Y.C.R.R. § 100.2(x)(2)(ii).

What happens if a student chooses to attend their local school, but later decides that they would rather attend the school of origin?

Students in temporary housing have a grace period for changing their mind about school selection - 60 days or until the end of the semester, whichever is later. To change the student's school selection, the designator (see above) will need to complete a new STAC-202 form. 8 N.Y.C.R.R. § 100.2(x)(2)(vi).

Does the McKinney-Vento Act cover students attending private schools?

Not usually. The McKinney-Vento Act only covers public school students. However, there are some cases where a public student with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) will be placed in a non-public school (NPS) or private school by the Committee on Special Education (CSE). In this situation, the student will still be considered a public school student, even though they attend a private program, and the student will be protected by the McKinney-Vento Act. If the student loses housing, the student would be entitled to continued enrollment in the same non-public school placement and would be eligible to receive transportation to that school under McKinney-Vento. See Transportation FAQs for more information about transportation to private schools.

Can a student who was attending a private school transfer to a public school in the district of origin?

Yes. Under state law, students who were attending private school and are temporarily housed in another school district may enroll in public school in the district where they were last permanently housed, i.e. the district of origin, and receive transportation to that school. N.Y. Education Law § 3209(1)(c).

What happens if a student becomes temporarily housed in the same school district the child had attended, but in a different attendance zone from where the student was last permanently housed?

A temporarily housed student has the right to return to the same public school building where the student previously attended, or to enroll in the new local school. The student would have the right to choose between the school that is zoned for the area in which the student is temporarily residing, and the school the student was attending while permanently housed. 42 U.S.C. § 11432 (g)(3)(I); N.Y. Education Law § 3209(1)(i) & (2)(b).

If a family with more than one school-age child loses housing, and the children would like to attend school in different school districts (i.e. one child would like to return to the school of origin, and the other child would like to enroll in the local school) can the family choose to do that?

Yes. Siblings in temporary housing may choose to attend school in different school districts, or in different zoned schools in the same district. Temporarily housed siblings do not necessarily have to attend school in the same district or the same school building.

Can a pre-school aged child who has lost housing still enroll in the school district where they were previously housed?

Often, the answer is yes. A child may begin school in the district where they were last permanently housed if they were eligible to apply, register, or enroll in public pre-school or kindergarten at the time of the housing loss, OR if the child has a sibling who already attends school in the same district. N.Y. Education Law § 3209(2)(c).

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