images of parents with their children
Dear Parents,

Recently, Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria battered Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and several other countries in the Caribbean, leaving thousands of people displaced. Some families from these impacted areas, and their school-aged children, have already relocated to New York and many more may relocate in the coming weeks and months. This week, the State Education Department issued guidance to school districts to help students displaced by the recent hurricanes .
Students who are temporarily displaced due to disaster are likely protected by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act, a federal law that details the educational rights of students in temporary housing. Under the McKinney-Vento Act, students in temporary housing can enroll immediately in a school in the district where they are temporarily living even if they do not have the documents normally needed or missed enrollment deadlines. In addition, these displaced children are eligible for free school meals, Title I services, and services to support students with disabilities and English language learners.
NYSED stands ready to help school districts enroll these displaced students who likely have no school records available as a result of the devastation caused by these unrelenting natural disasters. Our guidance provides important information and resources for displaced families and the schools that will serve them.

Last week, we announced a new partnership with the New York State Optometric Association, VSP Global, and the New York State Society of Opticians to provide access to no-cost eye exams and glasses to students at seven schools across New York as part of School Vision Health Month. In June 2017, the New York State Assembly and New York State Senate passed resolutions proclaiming October 2017 as School Vision Health Month to raise awareness about providing accessible visual care and resources to those who are in need.
Given the important role clear vision plays in children's physical, cognitive, and social development, it is imperative that children who need glasses have access to the vision care they need regardless of their families' ability to pay. I want to thank the State Assembly and Senate for highlighting this critical issue and VSP and the licensed eye care professionals who donated resources and time to make these free exams possible.
You can read more about School Vision Health Month and find out which districts are participating in the 
press release announcing this new vision care initiative .
There was another recent announcement that was related to the health and wellbeing of our students. Last week, Governor Cuomo announced that $1 million is available to eligible school districts to grow Farm-to-School Programs, which help school districts buy food for student meals from New York farms. Since good nutrition is necessary for academic success, this effort to provide fresh and local food to our schoolchildren is a win for all involved: students get healthier meals, farmers receive new business, and you are assured that your child is eating well at school.
Our staff at the State Education Department created a New York Farm-to-School Map to help schools locate local farms. We have also developed a 
Farm-to-School section on our Child Nutrition website  for schools to access resources, best practices and grant information. At last check, 87 percent of school districts, charter schools, and BOCES that completed our Farm-to-School Survey (about 540 respondents) indicated that they are already purchasing food from New York State farms. That's a great start, and the percentage is sure to climb higher with additional funding.
Also last week, I had the pleasure of attending a dedication celebration for a $25 million renovation and expansion at Middletown High School in Orange County. Middletown is a diverse district where nearly 80 percent of the students receive free or reduced-price lunch that is achieving great things. Last year, the 4-year graduation rate approached 80 percent, and nearly 40 percent of students graduated with college credits. As Superintendent Kenneth Eastwood said during my visit, the district is poor on paper but rich on opportunity.
The recently completed renovation makes Middletown High School very high tech - there are classroom walls made of active glass HD LCD panels that are similar to phone screens; big screens at the front of classrooms where teachers and students can view multiple computer screens at once; and a "Capstone Room" where faculty and students can videoconference with others from all over the country and the world!

These improvements don't just look nice - they will strengthen student learning as well. The new classrooms will help teachers move from traditional to collaborative, project-based instruction. Making this shift is critical not only to preparing students with the knowledge they need to be successful at the next level but also to giving them the opportunity to acquire and refine the practical skills that they'll need in college and in the workplace.

I look forward to visiting more schools very soon to see what other incredible things are happening in your children's classrooms.
Thanks for your continued support of education in New York.


MaryEllen Elia