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Tales from the Field: What happens when there is a fire?

In this second installment, NYSTEACHS continues to take a different approach to the blog and share actual calls from the field. We hope that these actual scenarios and the responses to them will help McKinney-Vento liaisons when faced with similar situations in their schools. As always, a wealth of resources are available on our website, including many recordings and documents from our previous webinars and web series.

This week let’s take a look at a family dealing with fire:

There are twins living in a Long Island school district (SD#1) attending a Kindergarten program. There is a fire in their home, and they are forced to leave the home due to the damage and move in with a relative in a neighboring district (SD#2). The parents want the choice of attending either SD#1 or SD#2.


  1. Is the family McKinney Vento eligible?

  2. Based on McKinney-Vento legislation, are the children able to attend either district?


  1. First, review the McKinney-Vento Act and New York State guidance regarding families and McKinney-Vento eligibility. As always, you can find a wealth of resources on eligibility right here on our NYSTEACHS website.

  2. After reviewing the rules on eligibility, if you’re still unsure of what to advise, you are absolutely encouraged to call the helpline for assistance: 1-800-388-2014.

The Answer:

Question 1: The McKinney-Vento Act defines “homeless children and youths” as individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. The term includes children and youths who are: sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason (sometimes referred to as “doubled-up”); living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to lack of alternative adequate accommodations; living in emergency or transitional shelters; or abandoned in hospitals; (Education Law §3209(1)(a); 8 NYCRR §100.2(x)(1); see also 42 USC §11434A(2)(B)(i); U.S. DOE’s Non-Regulatory Guidance, Question A-2,)

Since this family lost housing due to a fire and they are living “doubled-up”, they are eligible for McKinney-Vento benefits.

Question 2: Can the parents send their twins to either SD#1 OR SD#2?

Yes. Siblings in temporary housing may choose to attend schools in either school district or in different zoned schools in the same district.

The federal McKinney-Vento Act and New York Education Law Section 3209 provide important school selection and enrollment protections to preschool-12 students in temporary housing. Parents or unaccompanied youth in temporary housing may have up to three choices to enroll in school. They can choose:

  • The school attended when they were last permanently housed, or

  • The school last attended, even if the student was temporarily housed during that time, or

  • The local school where the student is currently temporarily housed.

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