Natural disasters throughout the nation often lead to an increase in the number of displaced families seeking shelter in New Jersey. Districts cannot delay enrollment of displaced students and they must enroll these students immediately, even if they do not have any school records. The following New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) guidance and FAQ document can assist New Jersey schools in supporting high school students displaced due to emergency circumstances.
Q. We are receiving students displaced by recent emergency circumstances (e.g., hurricane). These students do not have any transcripts. How do I determine grade level and program services?
A. If school records cannot be readily obtained from the student's prior school district, the enrolling school district may seek input from the parent/guardian. Based on those discussions and any evaluative information, the district may place the student in classes in the grade that is consistent with the student's biological age and provide program services (e.g. ESL), as needed. Input from the parent/guardian and student may contribute to developing a class schedule.
For students with disabilities, the district must seek input from the parent/guardian, as well as the child study team and, without delay, provide a program comparable to that which the student was last receiving. Within 30 days of the transfer, the district must conduct any needed evaluations and develop a new IEP for all out-of-state transfers.
Reference: NJDOE Broadcast October 11, 2017.
Q. Can my district use locally developed, board-approved assessments to award high school credits and inform program service placement?
A. Yes, the district may also use locally created district-approved assessments to assist with service placement and award credits toward meeting graduation requirements. The district may also use Option Two (see below for more information).
Q. Displaced students are arriving mid-school year. Is there a required seat time for students to receive credit for a class?
A. No. The NJDOE does not have a policy on required seat time to receive full credit for a class. It is up to the district to create a policy on seat time needed to receive full course credit versus audit credit.
Q. At times, immediately determining the appropriate needs of a trauma-impacted student is a challenge. Once the student settles into a "familiar routine," teachers are able to more accurately assess the student's level and needs. Am I able to adjust a student's grade level and/or program services after initial placement?
A. Yes. Teachers may provide evidence based on progress monitoring, especially for students who enter schools without academic transcripts, and determine a more accurate grade level placement and/or program services based on the student's performance. For students with a disability, an IEP meeting is required to change any program and/or service placement.
Q. Many students who arrive from natural disaster areas have additional needs that impact their learning in the classroom. How can I help?
A. Students that have experienced trauma may lack the attitude and skills to set and achieve positive goals. The NJDOE has several resources on social-emotional learning to help students deal with the impact of the traumatic event and reduce any negative impact on grades and conduct problems. If a disability is suspected, a referral to the Child Study Team should be made.
Q. I am concerned students will not have sufficient time to meet all the requirements for graduation. Is there another way for students to meet graduation requirements besides taking traditional classes?
A. Yes. The NJDOE acknowledges that not all students will achieve the standards in the same manner or at the same pace, particularly for students that are impacted by emergency circumstances. A district may permit an alternative learning experience to enable students to fulfill the expectations set forth in the New Jersey Student Learning Standards (NJSLS). Option Two (N.J.A.C. 6A:8-5.1(a)1ii) of the high school graduation requirements allows local school districts to design and/or approve educational experiences that serve as an alternative to traditional classroom instruction. It provides for meaningful learning experiences that support student achievement of the NJSLS. Option Two coursework can take the form of out-of-school learning experiences, project-based learning, dual enrollment in an institute of higher education (IHE), summertime learning, etc. Assessments must still be developed to test knowledge aligned to the NJSLS for any Option Two-related coursework. For more information, contact the Office of Academics.
Q. In New Jersey, the compulsory age for education is 20 years old. Are there exceptions to this rule?
A. State law (N.J.S.A 18A:38-1) stipulates that public schools must be free of charge to any person over five and under 20 years of age who is domiciled within the school district, and to certain students under 5 and over 20 as specified in other applicable law (N.J.A.C. 6A:22-1.1). However, school districts may continue to enroll students 20 years and older that are in the process of earning credits to meet high school graduation requirements. Also, if a student has an IEP, the student may remain in school until age 21 or through graduation, whichever occurs sooner (N.J.A.C. 6A:14-1.1).