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Schools get grants for students displaced by disasters

Trees are toppled in a parking lot at

Trees are toppled in a parking lot at Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Sept. 20, 2017, during the passage of Hurricane Maria. Credit: AFP/Getty Images/HECTOR RETAMAL

Forty-four Long Island school districts are among 185 systems statewide receiving nearly $16 million in grants to help cover the educational costs of students displaced by natural disasters and enrolled in schools in New York during the 2017-18 academic year, according to the state Education Department.

The grants provide funding to districts serving more than 3,000 students in New York displaced by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria or the 2017 wildfires in California. The funding is authorized under the federal Temporary Emergency Impact Aid for Displaced Students program.

Long Island districts will receive more than $960,000 to help cover the expense of 190 students in the 44 designated districts.

The Brentwood district will receive the largest grant on the Island — more than $156,000 — to help with the cost of educating 32 students in the 2017-18 school year. That was the largest number of students affected in a district on the Island, according to Education Department figures.

Brentwood Superintendent Richard Loeschner said Thursday the district appreciates the "generous" award.

"As educators, we stand by a belief that access to a high-level education should be available to all, regardless of circumstance," Loeschner said in a statement. "The Brentwood School District is proud to have been able to provide support to families displaced by natural disaster, while fully understanding the capital investment in providing this public service."

Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said that districts will be reimbursed up to $9,000 for each eligible displaced student who is an English language learner, $10,000 for each displaced student who is a child with a disability; and $8,500 for each student who is not reported as a child with a disability or as an English language learner. These amounts may be prorated based on the portion of the school year a student was enrolled in the district.

“After 2017’s horrific weather, many families relocated to New York State and we provided guidance to schools so they quickly could enroll and support newly arriving students from these impacted areas,” Elia said. “Even with no records, school districts across the state provided educational services, free meals and individualized academic supports so students could return to stable learning environments as quickly as possible."

The Wyandanch school system will receive $29,500 to help cover the costs of six displaced students who enrolled in the district, according to the state figures. 

Superintendent Mary Jones said in a statement that district officials are pleased by the response to "the financial stresses we have to bear, especially for those students who come to us under duress."

"Every contribution helps toward supporting them in their transition to a new culture," she said.

Schools may use the funds for instructional opportunities provided to displaced students and for expenses incurred in serving them in the 2017-18 school year.

Examples of allowable expenses include compensation of personnel, including teacher aides, in schools where displaced students were enrolled; identifying and acquiring curricular material and classroom supplies; acquiring or leasing mobile educational units or leasing sites and spaces; providing basic instructional services, including tutoring, mentoring or academic counseling; paying reasonable transportation costs; and providing health and counseling services.

With Michael R. Ebert

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