Children Relocated from Local Shelter Are Back in Bedford Schools

April 26, 2024
All of the school-age children who moved out of the emergency shelter in Bedford to new quarters in Lowell have returned to the four schools here, according to Superintendent Cliff Chuang. Courtesy Image

All of the school-age children who moved out of the emergency shelter in Bedford to new quarters in Lowell have returned to the four schools here, according to Superintendent Cliff Chuang.

And according to school principals, they were happy to be back.

Last week, during the schools’ spring vacation, 57 families, including all with school-age children, moved from the Bedford Plaza Hotel to the UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center, a former Doubletree Hotel in downtown Lowell.

The relocation was planned and executed by the state Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities so the residents, most of the migrants from Haiti and Venezuela seeking asylum, could benefit from professional management services at their new shelter.

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Most of the health care, language, school, and legal matters here were handled by Health and Human Services Department staff and other professionals from municipal and school departments, as well as by volunteers.

A federal law known as the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act requires public education for children without permanent housing. Under the law, children who depart Bedford can continue to attend local schools or transfer to classes in their new community.

Town and school officials worked with the state agency to move the children’s families during vacation week to soften the transition.

The cohort of almost 50 students decided to remain in Bedford for the remainder of the school year, Chuang said.

“We worked with Bedford Charter Service to arrange transportation from Lowell to Bedford and back,” he said.

“I was on the bus with the students Monday morning and they were pointing out landmarks in Bedford that let them know they were getting closer to their school,” reported Davis School Principal Beth Benoit. “They greeted their teachers and their friends happily and shared stories about the new location.

“The first few days back after a vacation week, students are so excited to be reunited. And this was true for the students that moved as well,” she said.

Lane School Principal Rob Ackerman said there was a similar reaction in the upper elementary grades, as the returnees and their friends and teachers greeted each other with enthusiasm.

Health and Human Services Director Heidi Porter said 16 more households were scheduled to move to Lowell this week with about a dozen families remaining at the Bedford Plaza until early May. 

“As long as families are at the hotel, they are Bedford residents and Health and Human Services will support them,” Porter said. “For the residents who have moved, our staff is meeting with and transitioning social service case management support to the Lowell shelter management team.”

The families sheltered in Lowell will decide during the summer whether to remain enrolled in Bedford or attend Lowell schools. There is a state reimbursement formula for the children in shelters, and transportation costs are also supposed to be covered by state aid.

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