Hauppuage superintendent Patricia Sullivan-Kriss is disputing numbers stated by Suffolk County Department of Social Services regarding the number of homeless students attending school in the Hauppuage district.
Sullivan-Kriss, in a letter to residents, called comments made by John O’Neil at the Dec. 9 county’s human services committee meeting, “inaccurate”.
O'Neil told the committee that as of Nov. 25 there were 10 children from the shelter who attend school in Hauppauge. Countywide, O’Neil said there are 660 homeless school age children.
According to Sullivan-Kriss, the district has twice that many students. In her letter, Sullivan-Kriss said the district is "educating thirteen students who reside in the shelter and five students who previously resided there but who are entitled by law, to complete the academic school year in Hauppauge schools."
Sullivan-Kriss added that she was told by the Department of Social Services that two more children would be joining the district this week, "bringing the total to 20."
John Nieves of the Suffolk County Department of Social Services said on Friday that the department is currently providing temporary housing assistance to a total of 13 children that are attending the Hauppauge school district. That number according to Nieves, does not account for students who have left the shelter or have been placed.
The school chief also called O'Neil's remarks regarding transportation of students "ill-informed".
The letter reads, in part:
Mr. O'Neil stated 'the district was wasting taxpayer money' in transporting specific students. Mr. O'Neil was ill-informed of the rights of families who contend that they remain homeless. It is the district's obligation to follow the McKinney-Vento Law during the appeal process, including transportation requirements. Our district understands the regulations that govern transportation and we fully comply with them. We also understand New York State transportation aid for students and maximize this revenue for the district.
Nieves told Patch in an email that transportation reimbursement is an expense covered by the department if the children are residing out of the school district’s catchment area and are placed in a temporary housing assistance site. Mckinney-Vento is one of the few education laws that outlines transportation of homeless students within the school district.
The department of social services has said that they do not believe that the amount of homeless students in Hauppauge is disproportionate in comparison to other districts and said that there a handful of other school districts that have more than double the percentage of homeless school-age children.
Residents have said that they are just as concerned regarding the potential of a higher amount of students entering the district based on the number of families the shelter can hold, which currently houses 96 families and 137 school age children.
The Human Services Committee tabled the resolution for the third time last week and will revisit the issue again in a January meeting.