10 Questions Every Local Education Agency Should Ask Themselves as Schools Reopen

Across the country, local educational agencies (LEAs) are beginning to reopen school buildings. Whether attending school fully online, fully in-person, or some hybrid blend of the two, students experiencing homelessness have new and dire needs. Many are struggling with instructional loss and mental health challenges due to months of distance learning and social isolation. Others simply have disappeared from school: survey data suggest that an estimated 420,000 fewer children and youth experiencing homelessness have been identified and enrolled by schools this school year. The shortcomings of eviction moratoria and limited access to rent relief collectively also raise concerns about significant increases in homelessness.

As we prepare for a new school year, this checklist offers 10 important considerations to help state and local educational agencies support students experiencing homelessness and make sure they are not left behind.

#1: Does every local educational agency (LEA) have a liaison currently in place who has adequate capacity to identify McKinney-Vento students and ensure their enrollment, full participation, and equitable access to services?

#2: Are liaisons and other school staff actively reaching out to known or suspected McKinney-Vento students, particularly those who have not been connected to education or attending regularly?

#3. Are there sensitive, trauma-informed, and culturally-competent systems in place to identify returning McKinney-Vento students, as well as students who are newly experiencing homelessness?

For the full checklist, visit https://schoolhouseconnection.org/school-reopening-and-recovery/

An important note:

Under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP), LEAs must develop and make publicly available on their websites a plan for the safe return to in-person instruction and continuity of services, within 30 days of receiving ARP funds. LEAs must seek public comment on in-person instruction plans prior to making them publicly available. In developing reopening plans, LEAs should:

  • Ensure that the needs of students experiencing homelessness are explicitly addressed.
  • Prioritize students experiencing homelessness for in-person learning opportunities, if desired by the student and/or their parent or guardian.
  • Not assume safe and stable housing arrangements. Reopening policies and practices must presume mobility and homelessness, and intentionally address them.
  • Ensure that reopening policies and practices do not conflict with the McKinney-Vento Act.

This is hub of expertise and stories to drive solutions around children, youth, and family homelessness. It is a project of SchoolHouse Connection.