Austin schools prepare to enroll thousands of Harvey student evacuees

5:18 p.m Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017 Local
Reshma Kirpalani
On Saturday, Cody Belcher, 17, waited out Tropical Storm Harvey with 140 other evacuees at the Wilhelmina Delco Center in Austin.

Austin school district leaders are preparing to enroll up to thousands of students displaced by Hurricane Harvey.

It is unclear how many student evacuees the district will take in, school leaders said, but the district is preparing for a substantial number.

School Superintendent Paul Cruz and Austin Mayor Steve Adler will hold a Thursday morning press conference discussing enrolling evacuee students. The press conference is set for 9 a.m. in the gym at Liberal Arts and Science Academy/LBJ High School, where evacuees have been taking shelter.

Principals already have been notified that students may begin enrolling now.

LIVE COVERAGE: Hurricane Harvey updates

“Austin ISD will continue to welcome all students, including any evacuees who are in Austin for the foreseeable future,” said Edmund Oropez, the district’s chief officer of teaching and learning. “We are doing all we can to ensure all student needs are met and that there will be minimal lapses in their school year.”

Schools pummeled by Hurricane Harvey could remain shuttered for weeks, possibly months, displacing students across the state.

Harvey forced the closure of more than 200 school districts for at least a day, but dozens remain closed. Four school districts and a charter school are closed indefinitely: Port Aransas, Ingleside, Skidmore-Tynan and Seashore Charter.

As with other major natural disasters that shut down schools for weeks, including wildfires in the Panhandle and hurricanes Rita and Ike, districts are offered waivers by the state for days missed.

The Dallas district already has opened three schools adjacent to the mega-shelter at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center to Harvey evacuees.

Under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987, parents can enroll their children in the public schools of the areas where they take refuge.

“These kids can go ahead and start getting enrolled and go back to school and have some kind of normalcy,” said DeEtta Culbertson, Texas Education Agency spokeswoman. “But basically it’s going to be determined by the parents on where their children are and what they want to do.”

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