As of Thursday, three children of a Lake Township couple involved in a dispute with the local school system were still not attending classes while their parents were considering home schooling them.
Jeff Hoff and Kristy Hunter said they had concerns about the safety of the children after reading comments on the district’s website and Facebook page that “bashed” the family.
Their son, Tyler Hunter, has been attending classes at Penta Career Center but daughters Taylor Hunter and Alexis and Shelbylee Hoff, who had been enrolled in the middle and elementary schools, have not attended class since earlier this month.
|Kristy and Jeff Hoff (holding elevated sign) and their children Alexis and
Shelby Hoff and Tyler and Taylor Hunter. (Press photo by Tammy Walro)
The family moved out of their rented Moline-Martin Road home late in September. The Wood County Health Department has declared the home uninhabitable.
The family temporarily lived in a tent at Maumee Bay State Park and the parents each school day transported their children back to the home where they were picked up and dropped off by the school bus.
But on Oct. 5, Anne Fetchik, Lake’s enrollment coordinator, notified them by letter the administration had learned the children didn’t reside at the address the parents provided to the school district and that proof of residency was needed, such as a current utility bill.
Residency proof or tuition payments would be needed by Oct 15., the letter says. It asks Hoff and Hunter to contact the school principals with any questions.
Hunter said the district hasn’t followed regulations covering homeless families and she doesn’t intend to meet with school officials without legal representation. She said she felt threatened when she met with administrators.
The family staged a protest Monday along Lemoyne Road near the district campus, holding signs stating the children had been unfairly kicked out of school.
Hunter and Hoff say they believe a neighbor on Moline-Martin informed the district the family had moved from the home they were renting.
Jim Witt, school superintendent, said Wednesday other parents have moved out of the district and brought their children back to the bus stops without informing the district of the move so their kids can still attend the school district.
“This isn’t a foreign situation to us,” he said. “So we did some checking and the stories kept changing. It wasn’t until Friday (Oct. 5) that we were informed by Kristy they were homeless. It was followed up by a call from Children Services that confirmed indeed they were. That was all the information we needed right from the beginning.
“This is a situation that had we been informed right from the get-go we wouldn’t be where we are now. The kids have never been kicked out of our school district.”
From a legal standpoint, nothing is preventing the couple from letting the children continue attending Lake schools, he said.
The family has since been staying at the Travel Inn, Hanley Road, which is located in the school district.
Bus route information for that area has been provided to the family, Witt said.
“Anybody that has worked with our school district knows we go out of our way to help people in need,” he said. “First of all, legally we can’t remove homeless children from our schools. There are laws covering those situations and we certainly would comply with those.”
Kristy Hunter said Thursday she’s completed the forms needed to home school the couple’s daughters but Tyler will continue to attend Penta.
Home declared uninhabitable
After an inspection of the home on Sept. 7, Kathy Shull, a sanitarian with the Wood County Health Department, declared the home on Moline-Martin uninhabitable.
“Observed at the time of inspection were damp and stained interior walls, inoperable and broken windows, windows without screens, water leaking into the basement, nonworking electrical outlets, and a large tree in the front yard…which could cause injury,” Shull says in a Sept. 25 letter to the county’s Job & Family Services office.
The health department notified the landowner, a Holland, O. company, of the violations in writing on Sept. 11.
The company filed an eviction complaint in Perrysburg Municipal Court, claiming Hoff owes rent and prevented the landlord from entering the premises.
Hoff, in his response, denies the claims and is seeking a judgment of $10,000.
A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 16.