Enrolling homeless students is a core concept in the McKinney-Vento Act as the law’s purpose is to ensure that every homeless child or youth has equal access to a free, appropriate, public education. The term enrollment is a critical part of the law and is defined as, “attending classes and participating fully in school activities” [42 U.S.C. § 11434(a) (1)]. Schools are required to enroll homeless students immediately, even if they have missed application or enrollment deadlines while experiencing homelessness and regardless of what point in the school year in which a homeless student presents for enrollment.
As a result, homeless students should be enrolled in any program operated by the school that is appropriate for the student’s needs, such as the school meals program, services through Title I Part A, school transportation, and preschool programs administered by the local educational agency. It is important to note that homeless students are eligible for Title I Part A services even if they are not attending a Title I school [20 U.S.C. § 6315(c)(2)(E)].
Students must have access to community-based programs such as Head Start (including Early Head Start), other public preschool programs, early intervention services under part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (20 U.S.C. 1431 et seq.), and healthcare, dental, mental health and substance abuse services, and housing services that facilitate school attendance or success. It is appropriate to provide these referrals at the time of enrollment.