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COVID-19 & Student Homelessness Q&A

Compiled by NYS-TEACHS: March 2020 - June 2021

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Academics and Testing 

One of my students in temporary housing was scheduled to take the TASC (formerly GED).  What can they do?

The TASC exam has been canceled due to COVID-19, but students can still earn a High School Equivalency (HSE) diploma if they: 

  • are enrolled in an approved HSE Program,

  • have already passed at least 3 Regents exams and/or TASC sub-tests, and  

  • for the remaining 2 sub-tests, earn a passing grade in their corresponding HSE classes. 

Students in HSE programs can use any combination of prior Regents exam scores, COVID-19 Regents exam exemptions, and passing TASC sub-tests to earn an HSE diploma.  Students who are currently enrolled in an HSE program are eligible for the COVID-19 Regents exam exemptions, discussed above, which can be used towards an HSE diploma. For more background about the Regents-HSE pathway, please see this NYSED resource

Changes to graduation requirements due to COVID-19: 

Course requirements have not changed due to COVID-19. However, Regents exams have been cancelled in June & August 2020 and in January, June, and August 2021. Graduation requirements for Regents exams have also changed for students planning on taking one or more of the exams. For more information, visit NYSED January 2021 FAQ and June & August 2021 FAQ

If a student in temporary housing needs help accessing remote learning (e.g., getting a laptop/iPad/Chromebook, accessing the internet, or getting printed assignments), how will this impact their grades?

First off, every effort should be made to ensure that students in temporary housing have access to remote learning as soon as possible. Contact the McKinney-Vento liaison in the school district for help (in NYC, see here). For more information, about accessing remote learning see Technology, Internet Access, and Remote Learning.

Each school district determines its own grading policy. Some school districts, including the New York City Department of Education, have said that attendance during the period of remote learning will not be a factor in students’ grades. Additionally, the federal McKinney-Vento Act requires that school districts update their policies to ensure that they address barriers due to absences that students experiencing homelessness face. 42 U.S.C. 11432(g)(1)(I). For more information about grading policies, contact your local school district.


Charter Schools

What resources are available to students in temporary housing who attend charter schools? Can they request an iPad from the DOE if they are in NYC?

  • The NYC Charter School Center has created a COVID-19 Resource Center with information for charters schools throughout NYS. 

  • Students in temporary housing in NYC who attend a charter school can request an iPad from the student’s school. Remote Learning Device Request.  


Collaboration and Communication Among and Between Schools and School Districts

How should I coordinate with neighboring districts to serve students who are temporarily housed outside of the district where they attend school?

When a student is temporarily housed outside of the district, the liaison is encouraged to coordinate with the liaison where the student is living to ensure that the student is getting the support they need, while being mindful of the student’s privacy rights (see our Information Sharing and Student Privacy Tip Sheet). For example, the liaison where the student is enrolled could reach out to the liaison in the school district where the student is living to get information about school meals, food resources, and other supports, and share that information with the student. Note: districts are allowed to provide grab and go meals to students who are not enrolled in the district, if they have applied for such waivers. 

Contact information for McKinney-Vento liaisons is available on our Liaison Search page.  


I need help contacting someone at NYC Department of Education (DOE) regarding a student in temporary housing.  How can I reach them?

The contact information for the DOE’s Students in Temporary Housing Regional Managers can be found here. An online directory of other STH staff supporting students in temporary housing in NYC is available at

  • MetroCards for parents in temporary housing to accompany their children (3K-6th grade) to school are available from the school.

  • Schools can request parent MetroCards by emailing


Data and Reporting

Many families are moving around due to the pandemic.  How should we proceed with McKinney-Vento eligibility determinations and related database updates?  Should we and can we continue to make updates about students’ housing status? 

During remote and hybrid instruction, it is crucial to keep students’ housing status information as up-to-date as possible. This will ensure that staff can continue to effectively reach out to students and families. As always, a Housing Questionnaire should be given to all students/families any time they report a change of address.

LEAs are expected to continue to update address information and data on students experiencing homelessness, even when families are participating in fully remote instruction.


In NYC, the Housing Questionnaire can be filled digitally/remotely. After verifying the information, new address and housing status information can be entered on the BIOU (Biographical Information Update) screen in ATS. In addition, school secretaries, principals and other school staff with ATS access can remotely access ATS and generate address reports (RATH and RADR) that include information about temporary housing status. For questions, email  

For more information on ATS, BIOU, and how to generate address reports please see our ATS Guide for Students in Temporary Housing: Manual for School Staff.


Enrollment of Students Experiencing Homelessness

How do we enroll new students if the school building or district office is closed?

While school buildings are closed, districts must immediately enroll students experiencing homelessness and connect them with the remote learning activities being offered by the district and services like free meals.  Many districts have conducted enrollment online and/or over the phone. For help with enrollment, contact the McKinney-Vento liaison for the school district. Remember: Students can remain enrolled in the same school/school district when they become homeless, consistent with their best interests. They do not have to transfer schools/school districts. 


Can we continue enrollment and remote learning for students in temporary housing who have moved outside of NYS during the pandemic?

Yes.  During these uncertain times, many students and families are temporarily doubled up outside of New York State.  Students in temporary housing continue to have important school stability rights, even when temporarily housed outside state boundaries.  In addition, under New York State law, protections for students in temporary housing continue through the end of the year in which the student finds permanent housing, and possibly for one additional year if that is the student’s last year in the school building.  This means that during COVID-19 related school closures, school districts should continue to provide remote learning support to students who meet these criteria and who want to maintain school stability, even if they are housed outside of New York.  

NYS Education Law limits transportation to 50 miles for students in temporary housing in most cases. This limitation only applies to transportation not enrollment. 

Should we prioritize students in temporary housing who want to transition from fully remote learning to hybrid/ fully in person learning even if we have a wait list?

Yes, under  New York State Education Law 3209 districts are required to remove barriers “ to the identification of, or the enrollment, attendance, or success in school of, homeless children and youths.” If remote learning is creating a barrier for a student in temporary housing your district should assist remove the barrier by transitioning them to hybrid/ fully in person learning as soon as possible. 

Furthermore, many districts submitted COVID-19 reopening plans to NYSED which included language about prioritizing special populations for hybrid/ fully in person learning including students in temporary housing. Your district may already have guidance on this issue.


Food Resources

What food resources are available for students in temporary housing?


  • Grab and Go meals during remote instruction: Most school districts in NYS are offering grab and go meals to families. For pick-up locations, visit your local school district’s website. Many districts are also coordinating deliveries for families who are unable to pick-up meals. 

  • Grab and Go and Summer Meal Locations: To find the grab and go or summer meal locations, text “FOOD” or “COMIDA” to 877-877

  • Flexibility for food providers:  This NYSED Memo has information about a wide range of flexibility waivers that have been approved for schools providing food. Hunger Solutions NY is regularly posting updates here. In addition, flexibility waivers have been extended through June 30, 2022, allowing summer meal sponsors to operate open sites in all areas, through the National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option, which is typically only available during the summer months. More information can be found on the USDA’s website.Program sponsors should contact their Child Nutrition representative at New York State Education Department (NYSED) with questions or for further guidance.  

  • Food pantries: Families in need should also be referred to local food pantries and given information about SNAP (see below).

  • P-EBT Benefits: Families with school children who were eligible for free and reduced lunch when buildings closed in March are eligible to receive additional food benefits on their EBT card.  P-EBT benefits can be used for up to one year, will not trigger public-charge status, and are available even if the family participates in the grab-and-go meal program.  For more information, please visit OTDA’s information page here.  


Free meals are available to children and adults in 200 sites across the city for pickup from 3 – 5pm on school days. No documentation is required and children do not need to be present to pick up meals. Families can also have meals delivered to them (see below.)  To find the closest Meal Hub, see here  OR Text “FOOD” or “COMIDA” to 877-877. They should text their street address and borough. Other NYC food resources:

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps: SNAP offers electronic benefits that can be used like cash to purchase food for people who are low-income. Eligibility and benefit levels are based on household size, income, and other factors. You can apply online at Automatic eligibility extensions and expanded benefits have recently been added to the program for many households.  For more information contact your local department of social services or SNAP Center or SNAP Outreach Provider.

For information about using Title I or McKinney-Vento grant funding for emergency food for students and families, see here


Funding and Use of Funds (Title I and McKinney-Vento)

If districts were unable to spend their Title I funding in SY19-20 due to school closures, will they be allowed to carryover funds into SY20-21?

Yes. NYSED has requested and received approval from the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) to provide LEAs with waivers of certain provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) and the General Education Provisions Act (GEPA), as authorized by The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. 

LEAs may carry over up to 100% of 2019-20 Title I, Part A funds to use during the 2020- 21 school year to meet new identified needs without submitting a waiver request to NYSED. 

 For more information, please see:

And for more information on permissible uses of Title I funds, please see this NYSED Guidance memo.

How much flexibility is there in Title I spending to support students in temporary housing during periods of remote learning?

Title I, Part A funds may be used to provide a wide variety of services to homeless students including those that may not ordinarily be provided to other Title I students. During the COVID-19 related hybrid/remote learning, this may include technology for remote learning, paper packets for home instruction, math manipulatives, or books, just to name a few examples. For more information, see NYSED’s Title I, Part A: Homeless Set-Aside, Guidance on Allowable and Unallowable Expenditures; U.S. Department of Education’s Education for Homeless Children and Youths Program Non-Regulatory Guidance, Sections H and M. 

For specific questions about uses of Title I funds, contact

Can school districts use Title I homeless set-aside funds or McKinney-Vento grant funds to buy remote learning devices (laptops, Chromebooks, hotspots, etc.)?

Yes. Access to technology is critical to ensuring that students experiencing homelessness can fully participate in remote learning activities being offered by a school district, charter school, or BOCES while school buildings are closed. Note that Title I homeless set-aside funds may be used to provide services to students experiencing homelessness that may not ordinarily be provided to other students. For more information, please see:

For specific questions about uses of Title I funds, contact For questions about uses of McKinney-Vento grant funds, contact

Can school districts use Title I homeless set-aside funds or McKinney-Vento grant funds to buy prepaid cell phones so that families and students experiencing homelessness can communicate with teachers and school district staff?  

It depends on the situation. If the cell phone is necessary to ensure that the student experiencing homelessness can participate fully in school activities (e.g., the cell phone is the only way the teacher can communicate with the student or the student needs internet access and the cell phone is going to be used as a hotspot), then it may be an allowable expense. In other words, if the cell phone is “reasonable and necessary to assist homeless students to take advantage of educational opportunities,” and there is no other source of device/internet access available through the school district (e.g. mobile hotspots, Chromebooks, internet enabled iPads), then using Title I funds may be allowable per the U.S. Department of Education’s Education for Homeless Children and Youths Program Non-Regulatory Guidance, see Question M-4.  If the school district or BOCES has a McKinney-Vento grant and the purchase of the cell phone is consistent with the grant activities and it is deemed essential (e.g., the cell phone will be used as a hotspot) and there is no other source, then it may be allowable. 

For specific questions about uses of Title I funds, contact For questions about uses of McKinney-Vento grant funds, contact

Can Title I homeless set-aside funds or McKinney-Vento grant funds be used for emergency food for students who are homeless while schools are closed?

Title I set-aside funds can be used for meals that are supplemental to the meals the school district is required to provide. Many districts are providing meals to students during school closures and will be reimbursed for such meals. If the school district has students who are homeless and are food insecure even with the school meals, districts may use Title I homeless set-aside funding or McKinney-Vento grant funding for emergency food for students who are homeless. See Q13 in this NYSED Memo on Flexibility in the Use of Funds Associated with Approved 2019-20 Consolidated Applications for ESSA-Funded Programs During District and School Closures due to COVID-19.


Key Resources

How can I stay updated with the latest COVID-19 news and resources for students and families experiencing homelessness? 

Please see the following list:

Additional COVID-19 related resources from NYS-TEACHS include:

  • Tips for McKinney-Vento Liaisons: COVID-19 and Student Homelessness: This resource provides strategies and resources you can use to support the health and well-being of students, families, and yourself (i.e. self-care). You don’t have to be a liaison to use this resource; most of the tips are applicable to anyone working with students and families. 

  • Archived Webinars on COVID-19 and Students in Temporary Housing: You can find recordings of our 2020 back-to-school webinars as well as the PPTs and other related handouts here in our WEBINAR ARCHIVE.
    – NYS Presentation: 9/10/20 Back-to-School & COVID-19 Resources
    – NYC Presentations
                 – 9/24/20 DV Shelter Providers, Part II
                 – 9/24/20 DHS Shelter Providers, Part II
                 – 9/02/20 Preparing Families for the First Day of School (DV Providers)
                 – 9/01/20 Preparing Families for the First Day of School (DHS)

  • Check-In Checklist: Connecting with Families During COVID-19 School Closures: During COVID-19 school-building closures, liaisons report that one of the most challenging obstacles is maintaining consistent communication and connection with the students and families that they work with. This “Check-in Checklist” summarizes some of the strategies liaisons can use in their outreach to families and youth.


Mental Health and Wellness Resources

What mental health resources are available to students and families?

To speak with someone who will listen and help:

Also, there are several resources available online to families in this difficult time:

Please see our Tips for McKinney-Vento Liaisons: COVID-19 and Student Homelessness for additional ways you can support the health and well-being of students and families. 

How can I support a family who has lost a loved one? 

If a family shares they have lost a loved one as a result of COVID-19, the best response is a trauma-sensitive one in which the family feels validated and listened to. The NYS Office of Mental Health published this infographic with 10 Tips for Helping Others Grieve, which has the following suggestions:

  1. Immediately acknowledge the loss. Reach out to say, “I am so sorry for your loss.” Don’t be nervous. It doesn’t matter if you know the bereaved or the deceased well, just reach out.

  2. Do not minimize the loss or try to “take away” the pain. 

  3. Avoid statements like: “He/she is in a better place” or “I know how you feel.”

  4. Know that grief is not linear. People often cycle between the different stages of grieving.

  5. Focus on the person grieving. Don’t compare your experiences. Allow the person to navigate their own grief.

  6. Don’t judge how the bereaved is reacting. Everyone grieves differently. There is nothing wrong with how they are feeling or coping.

  7. Don’t rush the process. Everyone grieves at a different pace. There is no timeline to “move on” or “get over it”.

  8. Allow for crying and silences. Expressing emotions is healthy. Resist the urge to fill silence with words.

  9. Lend a helping hand. Instead of saying, “Let me know how I can help,” tell them what you will do. For example: “I’ll be by to mow your lawn on Tuesday.”

  10. People who are grieving often forget to take care of themselves. Have groceries delivered or send a gift basket with items to help them take care of their basic needs.


Outreach, Identification, and Communicating with Students and Families 

How can my school or school district continue to identify and support families experiencing homelessness while NYS schools are taking a hybrid or fully-remote approach to instruction?

While the way in which the McKinney-Vento Act is implemented must be modified to fit the demands of the current pandemic, the law continues to be in effect. Identifying families experiencing homelessness is crucial during this crisis, as we expect new families and youth to experience homelessness. It continues to be the local educational agency’s (school district, charter school, or BOCES) responsibility to identify families experiencing homelessness. Communicating with school and district staff about the importance of flagging students in temporary housing and referring them to the McKinney-Vento liaison is a top priority. This not only helps with the identification of families experiencing homelessness, but also ensures students are provided with the additional support.

Strategies and Tips:

  • If a student/parent indicates they have moved, are sharing the housing of someone else, or are staying outside of their home, review the Housing Questionnaire with them and explore whether there has been change in housing status.

  • Make sure school staff know to contact the McKinney-Vento liaison if they suspect a student may be experiencing homelessness. Possible signs include: the student is not regularly participating in remote learning, the student loses access to the internet, the student/parent shares that they are struggling financially (e.g., job loss), the student/parent shares that they are food insecure.

  • Make sure families know where to pick up grab-and-go school meals and are aware of other food resources in the community. More information regarding food resources can be found in the Food Resources section.

  • Make sure students have access to remote learning devices (you can use Title I funds! See Funding and Use of Funds below.) 

  • Include flyers and information regarding McKinney-Vento with Grab-and-Go meals or with other items most commonly distributed to students and families. 

  • NYS-TEACHS has a new resource called “Check-in Checklist: Communicating with Families during COVID-19 Remote and Hybrid Instruction.”  The checklist can help your district identify the key areas of needed support and target resources/funds appropriately. 

  • Attendance Works has a new resource called “Strategies for Connecting with Students and Families.” It provides specific strategies and actions that you can take to get in touch with families who may not regularly be connecting with school. 


What support is available for parents who may be struggling to assist their children with remote learning?

NYS: Some school districts have set up technical support infolines, and others have designated staff members to help parents and students with these issues. Reach out to your McKinney-Vento liaison for more information about local resources. 

NYC: Students who have received an iPad from the NYC Department of Education may visit the  Getting Started with Your iPad webpage for technical support or see this DOE FAQ

There are also many remote learning resources available online, such as:


I don’t have access to a work cell phone. How can I conduct outreach to students and families in temporary housing without sharing my personal phone number? 

McKinney-Vento liaisons have used the following strategies to communicate with students and families without sharing their person phone numbers:

  • Enter *67 to block your number before dialing out

  • Use a Google Voice or Skype number

  • Forward your work phone if you can

Can a liaison or other school district administrator release the names of students experiencing homelessness to other school staff to help support those who may be struggling at this time?

Yes. It is appropriate for the liaison to share information about which students are experiencing homelessness with other school staff if the purpose of sharing the information is to help them support the needs of these students (e.g., identify which students may need a laptop or hotspot and provide them with those devices, support with food and other resources). Wherever possible, the liaison should ask for and receive permission from the parent and/or student (in the case of older students) before sharing any information about the student’s housing status with other school staff. There is a lot of stigma associated with housing loss, and no one wants sensitive personal information being shared behind their back. 

Note: In most situations, the liaison or any other school district staff member may NOT share information about a student’s housing status or McKinney-Vento eligibility with a third party (e.g., non-school staff, including other students) without the parent’s consent. While community support is encouraged at this time, schools should always consult with families before releasing any private information. For more information on student privacy please visit our Information Sharing and Student Privacy Tip Sheet. 

I work for a school district. How can I get in contact with families who are not accessible via phone or email? 

If the family is in shelter:

NYS: Contact the director of temporary assistance at the local department of social services and request that they pass along a message to the parent. Because of privacy considerations, they won’t be able to confirm the whereabouts of the family without consent from the parent, but they may be able share your contact information with the parent.

NYC: Contact, your Students in Temporary Housing (STH) Regional Manager, or the STH staff member assigned to the shelter available at for help.

If the family is doubled-up or in another temporary housing arrangement that is not a shelter, McKinney-Vento liaisons have used the following strategies:

  • Sending written updates with grab-and-go meal deliveries

  • Asking the student or parent if there is a friend or relative with an email address or cell phone that school staff can use to reach them. Tip: you may be able to use Title I funds to provide a prepaid cell phone for a student/parent. For more info, see here

  • Sharing school updates and messages on social media (eg: FaceBook and Instagram). You may also be able to connect with a family via “direct message” on a social media platform

  • Asking a trusted school-based staff member (eg: social worker, guidance counselor or teacher) if they know how to contact the student or parent

  • Partnering with community-based organizations to share info if the student or parent provides permission, while staying mindful of privacy protections

For NYC Department of Education staff, see this guide to Reaching Students in Temporary Housing (STH) During Covid-19 School Closures for more information.

I am a teacher and want to offer additional support to my students who may be experiencing homelessness.  How can I find out which of my students have been identified as homeless?

NYS: You should reach out to your district’s McKinney-Vento liaison. They should have access to this information or should be able to connect you with the school district official who has remote access to the district’s student management system with this information. 

NYC: Information about housing status is maintained in the NYC Department of Education’s ATS system. School principals and other school staff can remotely access ATS and generate address reports (RATH and RADR) that include information about temporary housing status. For questions, email and see this guide to Reaching Students in Temporary Housing (STH) During Covid-19 School Closures for more information.

Before reaching out to parents or students in temporary housing please see our Information Sharing and Student Privacy Tip Sheet.

How can I maintain a family or student’s confidentiality while working from home in a shared space?

In these challenging times of working from home, the lack of space is a serious issue for students in temporary housing and staff alike. If possible, try to find a remote space or inform families and student’s of your challenges. For more information on this topic, see Scenario 8 in the U.S. Department of Education’s presentation on FERPA & Virtual Learning During COVID-19, and for more information on student privacy in general please see our Information Sharing and Student Privacy Tip Sheet.


Is it appropriate for a liaison to use a group text message, to use shared platforms like WhatsApp or to ask teachers to communicate through Google Classroom to reach out to students in temporary housing, families, and unaccompanied youth?

Privacy laws are still in full effect, and information about the living situation of students in temporary housing (e.g., address, temporary housing status) may not be disclosed without parental consent.   School district staff should be careful not to share personally identifiable information and to protect students’ privacy and safety when communicating with others. Group text messages, shared platforms or group emails should only be used if you are able to hide names, numbers and email addresses of students.  Our colleagues at SchoolHouse Connection recommend an app called REMIND; it allows for group contact without sharing individual contact information.

For more information about student privacy protections for students in temporary housing here’s a great 2-page fact sheet about privacy rights and homelessness.

Can schools and districts share information related to COVID-19 exposure in the school community if that information impacts a student or family?  

The U.S. Department of Education recently released guidance about student privacy in the context of COVID-19.   In the vast majority of cases, school districts must not share personally identifiable information about students without prior consent. 


For examples and Q&A about limited situations when information can be shared without prior consent, please see the Student Privacy Policy Office’s Frequently Asked Questions.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Student Privacy Policy Office (SPPO) responds to FERPA-related questions school officials may have: or (202) 260-3887. Additional information can be found on their website.

How can I best support unaccompanied youth during the pandemic?

Outreach to unaccompanied youth is especially important during this crisis. Liaisons should ensure that they or others from the district are regularly checking in with unaccompanied youth to see if they have a safe place to stay and for how long they think they can remain there, as well as checking in on their education and health/wellness needs. 

As a starting point, check-out this memo from SchoolHouse Connection, the Hope Center, and the Juvenile Law Center about supporting unaccompanied youth in college with a wide range of services, available here.   

Here are some additional resources you may want to provide:

  • NYS: Directory of Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY) shelters and services is available here.  

  • NYC: Information about drop-in centers and shelter options in NYC are included in The Door’s COVID resource guide, available  here.  

  • Support for youth with their college plans: Liaisons should continue to talk with unaccompanied youth about their plans for college and must provide verification of independent youth status for purposes of the FAFSA.  For a sample verification letter, see here.  For more information see our College Access Checklist and SchoolHouse Connection’s Five Strategies to Help Homeless Youth Transition to College During COVID-19.  

  • Information for youth about available federal stimulus payments: Unaccompanied youth may be eligible for federal stimulus grants if they are not claimed as a dependent on anyone else’s tax return. For more information, see this Fact Sheet on Stimulus Payments and Homeless Youth from SchoolHouse Connect, National Network for Youth, and Baker McKenzie, and SchoolHouse Connection’s FAQ on this topic

Please see our Tips for McKinney-Vento Liaisons: COVID-19 and Student Homelessness for additional ways you can support the health and well-being of students, including unaccompanied youth who may need a higher level of connection and support during this time.

Are there specific strategies that rural schools can use to support students in temporary housing? 

Students in rural areas may not have reliable access to transportation, internet, and/or other tools needed to stay in contact with their local school. It can be a real challenge for schools and districts to connect with these students and families in order to provide needed services. Here are few resources that offer creative solutions:

  • NYS-TEACHS’ Tips for McKinney-Vento Liaisons: COVID-19 and Student Homelessness, which includes outreach strategies that may be helpful to rural communities.

  • SchoolHouse Connection’s online FAQs also includes tips and strategies that rural districts across the country are using now to serve students during school closures.

  • A pre-pandemic transportation strategies resource about planning free meal distribution during school closures. For example, many school districts in New York State use existing bus routes, within and across districts, to help with food delivery.

  • Regarding free meals, this NYSED Memo includes information about available waivers and flexible solutions for school districts to ensure that no student goes hungry. Additionally, “Hunger Solutions New York” regularly posts updates here


How can NYC school staff and STH Family Assistants support school engagement/attendance for students in shelter?

For information about how school staff and STH staff can work together to support school attendance/engagement/interaction, see the NYC DOE’s guide on Reaching Students in Temporary Housing (STH) During Covid-19 School Closures.

How can districts prepare for increases in homelessness – and needs related to homelessness – as the economic situation takes a toll on communities?  

It is very possible that school districts will see an increase in need among students experiencing homelessness as a result of the pandemic. Liaisons and other school staff are encouraged to stay in regular contact with families already identified as McKinney-Vento eligible as well as those who may be at risk of homelesssness.  This ongoing communication will help you understand the level of need and target your resources appropriately. 

Here are few suggestions to get you started: 

  • NYS-TEACHS has a new resource called “Check-in Checklist: Communicating with Families during COVID-19 Remote and Hybrid Instruction.”  The checklist can help your district identify the key areas of needed support and target resources/funds appropriately.  

  • McKinney-Vento Liaisons should reach out to their district’s Title I Directors,  Principals, and Business Administrators to discuss the anticipated needs of students in temporary housing and provide input about setting budgets for next year.  

  • Talk with students and families about the public benefits that are available to support them during this time. 


Public Benefits, Housing, and Other Resources

1. Where can I find local resources for families? 

Liaisons play a crucial role helping students and families in temporary housing with needed services and available benefits. Liaisons can also help families at risk of homelessness and those who have recently found permanent housing, by sharing important information about public benefits like food support, cash assistance, medical benefits and more. Here are some places to start:

  • For general information and referrals, use NYS-TEACHS templates to develop local referral lists. Start by looking at this Guide to finding local resources, such as who to contact to apply for public benefits (cash assistance, SNAP, HEAP), health insurance, and housing. When creating a referral list, be sure to include information about revised hours and new protocols due to COVID-19. Many offices are closed but they are still doing business by telephone or online, including processing applications for benefits and services.

  • Unemployment Assistance: for information visit the NYS Department of Labor

  • Housing Information

    • Housing protections, eviction prevention services, public housing and more, see NYS Homes and Community Renewal’s COVID-19 Helpful Links and FAQs

    • Section 8 and Public Housing: Families who experience a loss of income can request a rent reduction. Families should contact the local housing authority for more information. In NYC, visit NYCHA’s Self-Service Portal  or call the Customer Contact Center: (718) 707-7771.

    • Eviction Protections/Eviction Moratorium: The federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued guidelines protecting some renters from eviction. Resources related to the ending of the Eviction Moratorium, including rent relief resources and tips for supporting families at risk for loss of housing, can be found on the NYS-TEACHS website

    • Emergency Rental Housing Assistance (ERAP): NYS will begin accepting applications on June 1, 2021. This program serves to provide economic relief to low to moderate- income households at risk of homelessness or housing instability. More information can be found on the OTDA website

    • The NYS Tenant Safe Harbor Act also protects some renters from eviction. Contact your local legal service provider for more information about these protections. 

    • For information about housing court in NYC, contact Housing Court Answers at (212) 962-4795.

In NYC: 

2. How can I support immigrant students and their families during the pandemic, especially if they are undocumented?  

All school age children and youth are entitled to a free public education in the United States, regardless of their immigration status, based on a Supreme Court case called Plyer v. Doe.  Outside of education, there have been important changes affecting undocumented immigrants during the pandemic. If you are working with undocumented students and families who have immigration questions, please help them stay in contact with an immigration attorney or expert.  The organization Protect Immigrant Families has online updates about COVID-19 and immigration, including a reference guide about public benefits that students and families may be eligible for.  You can also search here for local referrals in your community.


In New York City, students, families and advocates can get more information and updates related to immigration here.


Special Education 

Can IEP meetings be held when school buildings are closed?

Yes. IEP meetings can be held virtually.  Many schools are conducting IEPs over the phone, web-camera or via video conference. 

How should special education services be delivered virtually? 

The U.S. Department of Education has provided guidance and the New York State Education Department has issued several guidance memos on this question. In general, school districts are still required to provide students with a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”), but they have flexibility in how they provide virtual special education services, including related services (e.g., speech, occupational therapy/OT, physical therapy/PT, counseling). However, the services must still be individualized to each student.


Technology, Internet Access, and Remote Learning

1. How can schools support students in temporary housing who do not have access to remote learning devices?

NYS: School districts are distributing laptops, tablets, and hotspots to students so that they can access distance learning. Title I, Part A set-asides and McKinney-Vento grant funding can be used to pay for devices and/or wi-fi hotspots if they are not otherwise available for students in temporary housing.

NYC: To request an iPad, contact the student’s school directly. More information, see the DOE iPad Requests webpage and the DOE’s Remote Learning Devices FAQs, which includes information about the distribution schedule and tech trouble-shooting. For a short guide on iPad’s for school based liaisons please this school based liaisons learning series.

Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB): EBB recipients can receive up to $100 to purchase a laptop,     desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 towards the purchase price. You must be EBB eligible to receive the discount. Visit the FCC’s website for more info.

2. How can schools support students in temporary housing who do not have internet access?

  • Free internet: Many internet providers are offering free internet service. See this list of Providers Offering Free Wi-Fi or Special Accommodations. Note that some students/families can’t access these offers because they have an outstanding bill (although these restrictions have largely been lifted in NYC). 

  • Funding for hotspots: For students and families who can’t access one of the free internet offers, schools may use Title I or McKinney-Vento grant funds to provide internet hotspots to students. For more information about uses of Title I and McKinney-Vento grant funds, see below

  • Mobile hotspots: Some districts have set up mobile hotspots using district buses or vans which are then parked in school parking lots or other community areas; the district shares information about where the vehicles will be parked so that multiple families can drive to that area and access the hotspot. 

  • Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB): The EBB can provide up to $50/month towards broadband service to eligible households and up to $75/month for those living on tribal lands. Visit FCC’s website for more info.

  • NYC: As noted above, all students in temporary housing enrolled in NYC public schools can request an iPad that comes with internet access. Please note that the iPads may also be used as hotspots for connection to other devices without internet connection. To request an iPad, reach out directly to the student’s school. DOE’s Find a School option will help find the school’s contact information. For more information, see the DOE iPad Distribution webpage and the DOE’s Remote Learning FAQs. For a short guide on iPad’s for school based liaisons please this school based liaisons learning series.

3.  Can I still request an iPad for a student in temporary housing in NYC? How can I find out when a NYC student in temporary housing will receive an iPad? 

You can still request an iPad with internet access for a student in temporary housing in NYC. Families are now to request a device directly from their student’s school. Use DOE’s Find a School option and click on the General Information of the school’s details to get the contact information of the school staff. If the school building is closed for in-person learning, there should be staff available to assist with device needs. You can also reach out to the Family Support Coordinator in the Superintendent’s Office. More information, see the DOE iPad Distribution webpage and the DOE’s Remote Learning Devices FAQs

4.  How can schools provide educational materials and remote learning devices while still being mindful about safety and complying with social distancing guidelines? 

Districts have used a variety of methods to provide educational materials and technology for remote learning while following public health guidelines, such as mailing instructional materials and devices, and pick-up or delivery systems that are contact free. Districts have:

  • Created pick-up locations where school staff place boxes of supplies in their car trunks.

  • Left food and materials in a box outside students’ doors where they are staying or at a motel. The student/family comes out to claim the items when the person making the delivery has stepped away.

  • Set up “gloved grab-and-go” drive-up locations where staff wearing PPE can hand off devices without direct contact.

  • Included alcohol wipes, or a bleach solution with a sponge, with the deliveries so the student/family can wipe down the items before bringing them inside. 

For more information on how other school districts are handling this issue please see our COVID-19 Resources for Schools and Families webinar.

5.  What resources are available to help families and students get step-by-step instructions on how to use Google Classrooms and, in NYC, the DOE-issued iPads? 

There are many resources available online to help parents and students navigate Google Classrooms, below are a few:

For instructions about how to use DOE-issued iPads and for trouble-shooting information, see:

6.  What remote learning supports are available for students and families in temporary housing who are English Language Learnings/Multilingual Learners?

7. Additional Resources: 

  • NYSCATE Courses and Webinars:

    • NYSED has partnered with the New York State Association for Computers and Technology in Education (NYSCATE) to offer free professional development courses and webinars for NYS educators beginning May 2021. NYSCATE also provides webinars for parents and educators on topics related to remote learning and technology. For more information regarding the courses and webinars, please visit the NYSCATE website. Register for the webinars below: 

  • Parent University:

    • NYC: Parent University provides free courses and resources for parents of NYC students in an effort to empower and educate families in a variety of topics. You may browse through their course catalog and find out more about courses by going to the Parent University home page. 

More questions? Give us a call.

If you have a question, call the NYS-TEACHS Infoline at 800-388-2014.

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