CNY district to kick out 2 remote-learning students taking classes from out-of-state

Auburn, NY – Can you visit a friend or relative in another state for an extended period while your kids keep up with their classes and school work online?

One Central New York school district says no, at least not in the case of Jeffrey Emmette. The single father of three has two elementary-age students in the Auburn city school district, who have been learning remotely since September from their aunt’s home in Missouri.

On Thursday, Emmette received an email from Camille Johnson, Auburn’s assistant superintendent for student services, saying she has determined his two sons “are not entitled to the public schools of the district.”

In the email, the administrator says Emmette told the district in late August the family had planned to return to Auburn from their vacation in Missouri over Labor Day weekend, but due to a wedding at the end of September decided to remain in Missouri.

The administrator says in the email the district allowed the two boys, a second-grader and fourth-grader, to continue remote learning.

However, Emmette and his kids still haven’t returned, and mail sent to him was returned to the district, the email says. It also states that Emmette told the district he didn’t have a set date to return, and told them he was renting out his home when possible on AirBnB.

“Renting out your home is contrary to an intent to return to Auburn in the near future‚’’ Johnson says in the email Emmette shared with | The Post-Standard.

The administrators says his children – Aiden and Tyler – will be “exited” from the school district as of Oct. 23.

Emmette said he was outraged and shocked when he received the email. He said the weather is nice at his aunt’s home in Missouri and it’s somewhat isolated, so he and his kids feel safe from the coronavirus pandemic.

“Are you kidding me?” he said. “I never thought there was any problem. I pay my taxes and my mortgage, and my home is not for sale. I didn’t move. And my kids do all their work on Zoom as I have chosen for them to be fully remote.”

Auburn is on a hybrid schedule where students learn in school some days and remotely the other days. Parents in New York state, however, are allowed to choose if they want their children to learn all remotely.

Emmette, who works as a podcast host on youtube and restores furniture, said he didn’t have a date in mind to return, but would have come back at least by January. He said if the elementary schools were five days a week in person, he would return, but he doesn’t want his kids to go on a hybrid schedule.

Contacted by | The Post-Standard, Auburn School Superintendent Jeffrey Pirrozolo said he can’t comment on individual students. He said the district is following its legal counsel’s advice in the matter.

He did say the issue is a pandemic-related problem.

Robert Lowry, New York State Council of School Superintendents, said residency questions can be “murky,” especially with the pandemic and remote learning thrown in.

He said the question has come up recently as some New York City parents had moved to vacation homes in Lake George or around the Albany area and their children were continuing to learn remotely with their New York City schools.

On one hand, if you own a home and are paying property taxes, you have an argument that you still qualify as a school district resident, Lowry said. But renting out your home adds complexity to the question, he said.

Emmette said he told the superintendent he was renting the home temporarily. “How do you make the conclusion I’m not coming back just because my house is on AirBnB,” he said.

Emmette said even before the pandemic he would sometimes rent his home out on weekends during the school year, and during the summers. He said he and his kids would have a getaway.

“So I want to know how long can you go away for?” he said. “I didn’t lie about it. I told them the truth, because what does it matter. I am not moving to Missouri.”

Legal officials said many residency cases are decided by the state education commissioner, and Emmette was told he can file an appeal to the commissioner as well.

Emmette said he called a lawyer, but isn’t sure what he will do.

“I guess I have to come back to Auburn,,” he said.

Elizabeth Doran covers education, suburban government and development, breaking news and more. Got a tip, comment or story idea? Contact her anytime 315-470-3012 or email [email protected]


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