Remember homeless education requirements for school reopenings

School district leaders must review and revise policies that act as barriers to the enrollment of children and youths experiencing homelessness.
By: | June 23, 2020
Photo by Elvis Bekmanis on UnsplashPhoto by Elvis Bekmanis on Unsplash

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended in its May 19 update on guidance for reopening of K-12 education programs that schools can help mitigate the novel coronavirus pandemic through the use cloth face coverings and other measures incorporating personal protective equipment. Schools may take additional steps, in collaboration with state and local health officials, toward establishing CDC-guided PPE policies that directly affect students and staff. But as schools plan to reopen this summer and fall, state and local educational agency officials should keep front of mind provisions in the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act, Pub. L. No. 114-95.

Consider homeless education in return-to-school planning

SEAs and LEAs must review and revise policies that act as barriers to the enrollment of children and youths experiencing homelessness, according to Section 722(g)(1)(I) of McKinney-Vento, which defines enrollment as “attending classes and participating fully in school activities (Section 725(1)).”

“Therefore, if PPE is required as a condition of returning to class, SEAs and LEAs must ensure that the requirement does not pose barriers to students experiencing homelessness,” says SchoolHouse Connection Executive Director Barbara Duffield. “This might mean providing PPE directly, or ensuring that families and unaccompanied youth are able to obtain it.”

Duffield says SEAs are currently required under the law to “address other problems with respect to the education of homeless children and youths, including problems resulting from enrollment delays that are caused by uniform or dress code requirements (Section 722(g)(1)(H)).” She notes that PPE requirements would be similar to a uniform or dress code requirements and would need to be addressed.

Repurposing options during COVID-19 school closures

Until the national public health emergency ends, schools reopen, and students begin attending schools in person, the U.S. Education Department has provided federal award grantees and subgrantees flexibilities from allowable costs requirements (2 CFR 200.403(a)) under Uniform Guidance consistent with the class exception (2 CFR 200.102) issued in the Office of Management and Budget Memorandum M-20-20, 120 LRP 13168, (OMB 04/09/20) allowing federal awarding agencies to repurpose federal assistance awards (in whole or partly) to support the COVID-19 response.

Grantees and subgrantees may repurpose federally purchased equipment and supplies that are not currently in use to carry out an ED grant program to meet the general education needs of students, including children with disabilities and English learners.

Runaway and homeless youth allowable uses of funds

Schools should work with organizations, including other federally funded programs, to ensure funds are wisely spent and the needs of homeless children and youths are met throughout the COVID-19 response.

For example, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families issued guidance for the Runaway and Homeless Youth Program that accords with time-limited administrative flexibilities provided in Memorandum M-20-17, 120 LRP 10476 (OMB 03/19/20).

Information Memorandum IM-ACF-OA-2020-01 states that AFC will waive prior approval requirements if the costs are directly related to the COVID-19 emergency, as necessary, to effectively address the response. All costs charged to federal awards must be consistent with federal cost policy guidelines and the terms of the award, except where specified; and award recipients must maintain appropriate records and cost documentation as required under rules 2 CFR 200.302 and 2 CFR 200.333.

Johnny Jackson covers homeless and at-risk students and other Title I issues for ESEA Now, a DA sister publication. Links to documents mentioned above are available to subscribers.