The
HEARTH
Project

Homeless Education Advocates Restoring The Hope

The HEARTH Project and Polk County Public Schools are dedicated to assisting homeless and in-transition families and children by eliminating barriers to school enrollment, attendance, stability, and overall academic success. We work to ensure that children experiencing homelessness have the same opportunities for educational success as housed students in Polk County.

Slider

McKinney-Vento Act

The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act is a federal law which provides educational support for students who are experiencing homelessness. Children in housing transition have certain rights under this Act, including the right to immediate enrollment in school and transportation to and from the school of origin. See the information below to learn more.

Need Help or Want to Give Feedback?

Homeless Definition:

Under the McKinney-Vento Act, certain living situations are considered to be homeless that may not typically be recognized as homeless situations. These include: living doubled up with one or more families due to financial hardship or a similar reason, living in an inadequate mobile home or trailer park, living in transitional housing, and living temporarily in a hotel due to various circumstances. See below for the homeless definition as provided directly from the Act.

Students' Rights:

Under the McKinney-Vento Act, students experiencing homelessness have these rights:

School Selection

Students experiencing homelessness have two school enrollment options — the school of origin or the zoned school in their new location. The school of origin is the school that the student last attended before losing housing. Students who are in homeless situations must remain in their school of origin unless it is against the wishes of the parents or guardians, and only if it is in the best interest of the student. Students may remain in their school of origin the entire time they are experiencing homelessness and until the end of any academic year in which they move into permanent housing.

Enrollment

School districts must immediately enroll students who are in homeless situations, even if they do not have required documents, including school records, medical records and proof of residency. It is encouraged to provide these documents as soon as possible after the student is enrolled. For assistance with obtaining such documentation, please contact the HEARTH staff at 863-457-4709.

Transportation

At a parent or guardian’s request, students who are experiencing homelessness must be provided with transportation to and from their school of origin, to the extent feasible. Feasibility is determined by considering the best interest of the student.

Free Meals

Students who are experiencing homelessness automatically qualify for free meals. Immediate eligibility is granted; no formal application is necessary.

Dispute Resolution

Whenever a dispute arises, the student must be admitted immediately to the requested school (school of origin OR zoned school) while the dispute is being resolved. When a determination has been made, the school district must provide the parent or guardian with a written explanation of its school placement decision and the right to appeal.

Additional Information for Parents and Youth

Additional Information for the Community