Some parents object to more homeless kids in Hauppauge school

Ten children from homeless families have been added Ten children from homeless families have been added to the roster of the Hauppauge school district's Forest Brook Elementary School, a move that a local lawmaker says has brought complaints from some parents. Photo Credit: Alessandra Malito, 2012

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Ten children from homeless families have been added to the roster of the Hauppauge school district's Forest Brook Elementary School, a move that a local lawmaker said Wednesday has brought complaints from some parents.

Superintendent Patricia Sullivan-Kriss, in a statement, said, "The placement of these students was made based upon enrollment in our elementary schools, as it relates to class size and the availability of support services for students."

The children live at a newly established shelter for homeless families that is within the district.

Legis. John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset), minority leader of the Suffolk Legislature, said he has received calls from frustrated parents expressing concern about the new students.

He would not be specific about their grievances, but said, "I don't blame a single person for raising questions or concerns as to why their school district that they pay for -- and pay dearly for -- has to undertake the expense associated with educating any particular individual."

Federal law mandates that homeless children can attend the public school district to which they move, or they can remain at their school of origin, with that school paying their transportation costs.

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Barbara Duffield, policy director for the National Association For The Education of Homeless Children And Youth, a nationwide advocacy group, said the law's purpose is to ensure that children in such circumstances miss as little school as possible.

"When everything else in a kid's life is turned upside down, at least school is continuous and stable, and they have the opportunity to learn," she said.

The Hauppauge district has an enrollment of 3,917 students on five campuses, including three elementary schools. The 10 new elementary school students from the homeless shelter were placed at Forest Brook Elementary; none was placed at the Pines or Bretton Woods schools, the district's other two elementary campuses.

The district had 19 homeless students in the 2012-2013 school year and has 24 now, officials said.

Kennedy called the housing of the homeless in Suffolk a "haphazard system that we have attempted to address in multiple iterations."

Suffolk County recently moved to consolidate smaller facilities that have been used as shelters, to instead serve the homeless in larger sites.

Joanne Babbino, treasurer of the Forest Brook PTA and the mother of a special-needs child in the district, said her school should welcome those in need.

"I don't think this should be an issue," she said. "Everybody is a person with feelings and value. Their situation may not be the best, but their situation doesn't define who they are."

She said anyone could become homeless because of a job loss or another significant blow to their income.

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