NORWALK, Conn. — There are six Norwalk Public Schools students who don’t live in Norwalk, Chief of School Operations Frank Costanzo said Tuesday.
All of them come from families who have been enrolled here for years; of the 80 new students, all of them have been found to be legitimate Norwalk residents, he said.
Costanzo’s update to the Board of Education on the new residency policy, enacted with the beginning of the school year, included recommendations for the future – keeping tabs of homeless children being key on the list, and a possible collaboration with Planning and Zoning also being mentioned.
The BoE approved its new residency policy in August. There’s never been a system for verifying student residency in Norwalk, Costanzo said, mentioning that a private investigator is part of the process.
Families register at their schools and are referred to Central Office if there’s an issue, he said.
“We don’t have a new registration family identified as non-residents, believe it or not. The non-resident families that have been identified through our system this year have been currently enrolled students in Norwalk Public Schools,” Costanzo said.
Of the 80 new students, 95 percent are English Language Learners; most come from Guatemala or Hondorus, he said.
BoE member Erik Anderson sought to clarify: No one is being asked to provide their immigration status.
“They can all prove that they live here,” Costanzo said. “Whether they are living here legally or illegally is not for us to determine but we can determine that they are living here most of the time.”
Of the six students determined not to live in Norwalk, three are on the verge of being disenrolled. If their families don’t provide paperwork to prove residency or file an appeal by March 24, they will no longer be Norwalk students, Costanzo said.
The other three students were found to be homeless because of a fire that happened earlier this year, he said.
Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski mentioned that they are living in a Bridgeport homeless shelter.
They are documented long-term Norwalk residents but if they don’t find a new home here by the end of the school year they will have to move on, Costanzo said, mentioning the McKinney-Vento Education of Homeless Children and Youth Assistance Act, a federal law that applies to this situation.
Adamowski said they’re considered to be living in transitional housing. If they don’t move back to Norwalk, their new school system will be notified of their presence, Costanzo said.
The private investigator has staked out both the East Norwalk and the South Norwalk train stations and investigated one East Norwalk situation, Costanzo said, explaining that, “Other than that, we’re seeing no problems.”
NPS found that there have been situations where a family became homeless but the children continued to attend Norwalk Public Schools for years.
NPS should monitor homeless populations to eliminate the transition, Costanzo said.
“We should reconsider having existing students reregister at some point,” he said.
It wouldn’t hurt the BoE to collaborate with Planning and Zoning, Costanzo said.
“We don’t need to provide detailed student information to Planning and Zoning,” but rather, if an address is routinely turning up the BoE can provide that address to the city, he said.
“Collaboration with city would be smart,” Costanzo said.
BoE Vice Chairman Mike Barbis asked if families have to provide their Social Security numbers when they enroll.
They don’t, Costanzo said.
But, “The vast majority hand us immigration papers,” Costanzo said. “…80 new students from outside the country shows the strain the Board of Education is placed under.”