An estimated 20,000 homes in Galveston County were flooded during Hurricane Harvey, scattering families and children to hotels, shelters and temporary housing in the county and elsewhere.
Officials from school districts across the county are now working to return a sense of normalcy to their displaced populations.
“Friendswood Independent School District transportation is working on routes to gather the students requiring transportation from varying locations from Galveston all the way to Houston,” Superintendent Thad Roher said.
League City, Friendswood and Dickinson were among the cities hardest hit by the massive flooding caused by Harvey’s torrential rain, and many residents were forced to evacuate.
The Friendswood school district alone has 387 displaced students, with 133 of them living outside of the district, Roher said.
Dickinson Independent School District is down more than 300 students because of Hurricane Harvey, said Tammy Dowdy, spokeswoman for the district.
The Texas City and Santa Fe school districts both have about 60 displaced students, officials said.
A 1987 federal law called the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act classifies students displaced because of natural disasters as homeless, said Hank Bostwick, manager of the Texas RioGrande Legal Aid’s special education and education law teams.
Because of that classification, displaced students are entitled to attend the district they were displaced from or to immediately enroll in whatever district they were displaced to, Bostwick said.
“If you find yourself in north Houston and would prefer to be in a place close by, you can enroll in that district,” Bostwick said. “You’re entitled to immediate enrollment, even if you are enrolling a student that is missing a birth certificate, immunization records or proof of residency.”
While some schools within Clear Creek Independent School District, such as Brookside Intermediate School, have seen a few students withdraw, the district’s total enrollment numbers are actually up since the storm, said Elaina Polsen, spokeswoman for the district.
A big reason for this is the number of students the district has received from other places, Polsen said.
About 160 displaced students have enrolled in Clear Creek, with 65 coming from Dickinson, 25 from Pasadena and 12 from Houston, Polsen said.
“We’re working with families on whether they can provide their own transportation or if we can go get them to bring them back to their school of origin,” Polsen said. “We understand this may be temporary and we are working with them individually.”
WORKING WITH FAMILIES
Even districts less damaged by the storm, such as Galveston Independent School District, have worked to accommodate students from outside their normal geographic range.
Galveston has enrolled about 110 students in kindergarten to eighth grade from outside of the district, Superintendent Kelli Moulton said.
District officials have had parents of students in that range register their children at the central support center and did not have numbers for high school enrollees as of deadline Friday, Moulton said.
“No students impacted by Hurricane Harvey have been turned away from Galveston ISD,” Moulton said. “Because the first step to enrollment is at the support center, parents that report to campuses before the support center may have been redirected.”
Clear Creek officials have benefited from opening a CCISD Cares resource center at McWhirter Elementary School while district offices were closed, Polsen said.
“We encouraged people who were displaced to come get enrolled and signed up,” Polsen said. “We had a good system in place to expedite the process.”
Initial estimates are that about 1 million students — 20 percent of the 5.3 million in Texas — were affected by Hurricane Harvey, Bostwick said.
With such high numbers of displaced families and students, it’s important for individuals to know what they are entitled to, Bostwick said.
Bostwick’s organization, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, is currently working with low-income applicants to provide legal aid for those seeking to enroll children in schools.