Superintendent DeMary Advises Virginia School Divisions to Enroll Students Displaced by Hurricane Katrina
Superintendent of Public Instruction Jo Lynne DeMary is advising school divisions to enroll school-age children left homeless by Hurricane Katrina who are staying with relatives or family friends in Virginia.
“These children and their families are experiencing trauma most of us can only imagine,” said Dr. DeMary. “Virginia’s public schools will do everything possible to ensure that children from the Gulf Coast who have sought shelter in the commonwealth can continue their education.”
In an urgent email to division superintendents, Dr. DeMary directed school divisions to treat these families and students as though they were homeless, as defined by the federal McKinney-Vento Act. Under The McKinney-Vento Act, homeless students are enrolled immediately and subsequent efforts are made to obtain birth records, required immunizations, documentation of health examinations, and scholastic records.
Dr. DeMary reminded school divisions that homeless students may not be charged tuition under state law and urged neighboring school divisions to cooperate to provide the classroom capacity required to accommodate refugee students. Dr. DeMary encouraged school divisions to use their best judgment in determining grade placement for students who do not have scholastic records and whose records may have been destroyed by the hurricane.
The Louisiana Department of Education estimates that more than 135,000 students will be unable to return to their schools because of the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina. The Mississippi Department of Education estimates that about 35,000 students have been displaced by the storm. While the number of children from Louisiana and Mississippi who have sought shelter in Virginia is not known at this time, the Department of Education has received inquiries from several school divisions regarding their enrollment.