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Natural Disasters and Displaced Students

Published April 2019

Natural Disasters and Displaced Students

Due to the widespread flooding in southwestern Iowa many districts are dealing with the aftermath. Some students are displaced from their residences and may have issues with transportation to their school of origin. Other districts are struggling with the loss of power and water. For districts that have been impacted the Department has issued a Q & A on our website for Disaster Recovery. Here are a few student-specific aspects of disaster recovery for the convenience of school officials.

McKinney-Vento Act - Homeless Students:

Every Iowa public school district is required to have a liaison for homeless students. If you have students that have been displaced due to a natural disaster the liaison for the district will need to make contact with those students and determine individually if the student is homeless as defined in statute. If a student is homeless the student may be eligible for transportation to and from the school of origin and other benefits. Here is further guidance on homeless students on the Department’s website. Here are links to the National Center for Homeless Education:

What School District Administrators Should Know About the Educational Rights of Children and Youth Displaced by Disasters

Meeting the Educational Needs of Students Displaced by Disasters: Youth on Their Own

What Relief Agencies Should Know About the Educational Rights of Children and Youth Displaced by Disaster

Counting Students:

  1. Districts should ascertain whether displaced families intend to return within a reasonable period of time (18 months, for example) to their pre-disaster resident district. Here is a Residency Intent Form that districts may use or modify for their use. The form should be filled out by or on behalf of each displaced family who intends to return to the resident district to assist the district in gauging the likelihood of their return.
  2. The students of displaced families who intend to return and who will continue their education in the resident district without interruption are to be included on the certified enrollment of the resident district.
  3. The students of displaced families who intend to return but whose education will be provided in the district of temporary location of the family also are to be included on the certified enrollment of the resident district. The resident district will reimburse the serving district a pro rata amount for the days served.
  4. Families are not to use open enrollment for these situations; open enrollment funding does not include all of the funding that accrues to a district per certified enrollment of a resident student. Open enrollment is appropriate if a family is displaced from District A to District B, but desires that their children attend District C.


Districts are encouraged (as Area education agency (AEA) chief administrators are so advised) to cooperate during these extraordinary circumstances to allow the school buses of a contiguous district to temporarily run necessary bus routes outside the boundary of the resident district. Disputes are to be handled by AEA boards per Iowa Code section 285.9. However, displaced families who desire for their children to continue their education in the resident district without interruption may be required to be responsible for transportation to and from school when the AEA determines that it is not cost effective for the resident district to provide the transportation.

Athletic Eligibility:

As in 2008 and 2011, agreement has been reached among the Department, the Iowa High School Athletic Association (IHSAA), and the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union (IGHSAU) to accommodate secondary students whose families are displaced by the floods.

Ordinarily, the transfer rule requires high school students who transfer from one school to another without a contemporaneous parental move to sit out 90 consecutive school days from varsity level competition in interscholastic sports. Due to the extraordinary flooding in western Iowa this spring, displaced students* will be held harmless (that is, have no period of ineligibility) under several scenarios, all of which are in the Athletic Eligibility Guidance. Also at the link is a form to be used by schools to provide a list of displaced students to the IHSAA and IGHSAU.

Iowa Code provisions regarding Disaster Relief for LEAs:

The Legislature has enacted several provisions in Iowa Code to assist school districts impacted by natural disasters:

  1. The School Budget Review Committee (SBRC) may grant a modified supplemental amount for costs from the General fund directly related to a natural disaster. Iowa Code § 257.31(5)(b).
  2. The SBR) may authorize a district to spend a reasonable and specified amount from the district’s unexpended cash balance for costs associated with the demolition or repair of a building or structure in a school district if such costs are necessitated by, and incurred within two years of, a natural disaster. Iowa Code § 257.31(7)(a)(3).
  3. A district may petition the state appeal board to levy an emergency fund at a rate not to exceed 27 cents per $1000.00 of assessed value of taxable property. Iowa Code § 24.6(1). Districts should work with the Department of Management regarding this process.
  4. The SBRC may approve a transfer from a school district’s emergency fund to any other fund for the purpose of meeting deficiencies in a fund arising within two years of a natural disaster. Iowa Code § 24.6(2)(b).
  5. Necessary emergency repairs may be made by an AEA or school district under circumstances specified in Iowa Code (section 273.14 for AEAs; 297.8 for school districts) with relief from public bid law requirements in section 26.3.
  6. Physical plant and equipment levy (PPEL) revenues may be used for demolition, clean up, and other costs if necessitated by, and incurred within two years of, a natural disaster. Iowa Code § 298.3(1)(m).

School administrators are encouraged to work with their district attorney regarding the above listed items.

Other Resources:






Emergency Levy - John Parker - or 515-281-8485

SBRC - Kassandra Cline - or 515-281-4738

School Finance - Kassandra Cline - or 515-281-4738

Transportation - Max Christensen at or 515-281-4749

School Nutrition Programs, USDA Commodity Foods, USDA Child and Adult Care Food Programs, USDA Summer Food Service Program - Patti Harding - or 515-281-4754


Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on October 03, 2022 at 9:42am.