Schools working hard to keep students displaced by Hurricane Sandy in their home districts
The Ocean City School District is bringing students in from Somers Point.
Egg Harbor Township is making a daily bus trip to Brigantine.
And Brigantine is sending a bus to Absecon, where three families are still living in motel rooms.
Hurricane Sandy flooded many local families out of their homes. But their local school districts are trying to restore some normalcy by trying to help displaced students stay in their old schools.
It hasn’t always been possible. The Egg Harbor Township School District has enrolled a few new students relocated from Seaside Heights in Ocean County.
“One of them wanted their child bused to their old school,” school registrar Patricia Connor said. “They said they were told the child could still attend that school. We had to explain that the distance had to be reasonable.”
Displaced families are considered temporarily homeless, and as such their children can either attend school in the district where they are now living, or their home district can choose to pick them up where they are. State law allows the new district to charge the home district the cost of educating homeless students, but because of the large number of families displaced by the storm, and the possibility of getting federal aid to help cover some costs, no final determination has been made on reimbursements.
Overall, local district officials said most students have been able to return to the district, if not to their homes. A few did lose students who moved too far away.
Brigantine Superintendent Robert Previti said most of their displaced families managed to find temporary housing on the island, but they they do have seven children in hotels on Route 30. A couple families relocated to the Cherry Hill area and are attending school there.
“We keep a displaced student list and update it every three days,” he said.
Many districts now have two addresses for displaced families — their home and where they are currently staying. Connor said it took a couple of weeks after the storm to identify how many students were displaced because some parents were just driving their children to school.
“But eventually that got difficult and then they contacted us,” she said.
Ocean City School Business Administrator Thomas Grossi said they have worked with city and FEMA officials to get as many displaced families back into town or as close as possible so they could be bused to school, and they do still have a few students living in Somers Point.
Medina Peyton, principal of the Sovereign Avenue School in Atlantic City, said they have as many as 10 families that are still displaced, most in hotels outside the city. The district has provided bus passes for the students to get to school, and some families are providing their own transportation.
“But all of these students come every day, though one does arrive late most days,” she said. She said they are working with one family to try to find a job and housing closer to the city. She said six students have transferred out, but 10 new students have enrolled since the storm.
Richard Prince, guidance counselor at Texas Avenue School in Atlantic City, said almost all of their students made it back and are trying to stay local, even if they have to relocate.
“A few are still in hotels, and the Sheraton has been a godsend for these families,” he said.
The students themselves, he said are resilient.
“As long as they are with their parents, and see their family managing, they are full of hope,” he said.
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