RP BOE & Kenilworth BOE Settlement Agreement

Homelessness. A word that somehow – for most – has lost its real implications. Throughout the nation, and even in our own community, difficult economic times have resulted in poverty and even a lack of permanent shelter for adults and children. The reality of homelessness impacts not only a family but the communities themselves who have to determine how to educate a child who has no permanent residence. This was most recently seen in a settlement agreement that was reached by the Roselle Park and Kenilworth Boards Of Education (BOE) regarding a child whose family was determined to lack a regular or permanent residence. The Roselle Park BOE approved the agreement at the November 21st BOE meeting.

The four-page settlement agreement, obtained through an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request, revealed that the child’s family had moved from Roselle Park to Kenilworth in May of this year.

The document stated that “a dispute arose between Roselle Park and Kenilworth as to the status of the . . . family as “homeless” under State law”. The matter was brought to the Executive County Superintendent of Schools for Union County who determined that, under state law, the family was homeless.

In order to avoid the expense of litigation between the two districts, Kenilworth assumed all financial and educational responsiblity for the student as of May 2017, relieving the Roselle Park School District (RPSD) of all such responsibility. The family would be considered residents of Kenilworth.

In exchange, RPSD will reimburse Kenilworth 55% of the ‘actual out-of-pocket educational costs incurred by Kenilworth . . . for a period of one (1) year from May 8, 2017.

Under NJAC (New Jersey Administrative Code) 6A:17-2 et. al., the last school district where a homeless child resided would be responsible for the total cost of educating that child. Under this particular condition, that district was deemed to be Roselle Park. The RP BOE could have appealed the determination to a higher legal authority which would have incurred legal costs and could have resulted in the district having to pay 100% of the related educational costs. Kenilworth would have been in the same situation with the same possible outcome. Either way, legal costs would be incurred. Instead, the districts reached the above mentioned agreement which will reduce Roselle Park’s financial responsibility from 100% to 55%. If, during the one-year period, the student is deemed to need to be educated out-of-district from Kenilworth, Roselle Park would only be responsible for the educational costs, not the transportation costs.

The agreement was approved by both the Roselle Park and Kenilworth Boards Of Education this month. For the sake of clarity, this student is not one of the three students referred to in a previous article regarding a residency hearing (link).

The text for NJAC 6A:17-2.2 (Determination of homeless status) is available below:

  1. A district board of education shall determine that a child is homeless for purposes of this subchapter when he or she resides in any of the following:
      1. A publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations, including:
        1. Hotels or motels;
        2. Congregate shelters, including domestic violence and runaway shelters;
        3. Transitional housing; and
        4. Homes for adolescent mothers;
      2. A public or private place not designated for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation, including:
        1. Cars or other vehicles including mobile homes;
        2. Tents or other temporary shelters;
        3. Parks
        4. Abandoned buildings;
        5. Bus or train stations; or
        6. Temporary shelters provided to migrant workers and their children on farm sites;
      3. The residence of relatives or friends where the homeless child resides out of necessity because his or her family lacks a regular or permanent residence of its own;
      4. Substandard housing; or
      5. Any temporary location wherein children and youth are awaiting foster care placement.