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Number of homeless students up in state, declines in SKSD

While the number of homeless students in the state has increased for the sixth straight year, the number in the South Kitsap School District has declined.

Last month, numbers released Feb. 26 by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction reported that show 30,609 students were counted as homeless. The number is an 11.8 percent increase from 2011-12 and a 47.3 increase from 2007-08. There were 20,780 homeless students reported during the 2008-09 school year.

Districts are required to annually report their homeless student numbers based on the McKinney-Vento definition.

District officials show — as of Feb. 28 — there are 54 homeless students in SKSD. The district reported there are 31 homeless students at the high school — 26 are seniors. Eight were reported in junior high schools and 15 scattered in the elementary schools.

There were 106 homeless students in the previous school year.

Dave Colombini, SKSD assistant superintendent and homeless liaison, said the district continues to assist homeless students with school supplies, food and other needs under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act, a federal law that ensures immediate enrollment and educational stability for homeless children and youth.

“Currently we have our ‘Backpack for Kids’ program and these kids are given food for the family for the weekend,” said Colombini. “We have transportation that gives them a ride to their school of origin.”

Colombini said each school also has supplies of school materials, such as paper, pencil and more that is needed. The district also is giving away clothing and providing gas cards to help families as they come in.

“We help with those requests,” he said. “Some are greater than others and we partner with others in the community if we need to get assistance from others.”

All districts are required to have a homeless liaison, who is tasked with identifying, enrolling and setting up services for homeless students.

Collecting and reporting homeless numbers of children and youth is a requirement of the McKinney-Vento Act.

OSPI reported that specific reasons for the increase are difficult to determine at the state level. Many community factors, such as lack of housing options, a major employer moving out of a region and the local job market may contribute.

The McKinney-Vento Act ensures that homeless children have access to “the same free, appropriate public education, including a public preschool education, as provided to other children and youths.”

The lack of a stable home puts tremendous pressure on homeless students. Mobility rates are higher than students in homes, absentee rates are higher, health problems are more prevalent and graduation rates are lower.

McKinney-Vento defines a student as homeless if he or she lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. In practical terms, the student is classified as homeless if he or she lives in:

• Emergency or transitional shelters;

• Motels, hotels, trailer parks or camping grounds;

• Shared housing due to loss of housing or economic hardship;

• Hospitals secondary to abandonment or awaiting foster care placement;

• Cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing or similar situations; or

• Public or private places not ordinarily used as sleeping accommodations for human beings.

The law requires that homeless students be given the same access to education as other students and cannot be separated from other students. Some students can remain in the district he or she was in before becoming homeless and provided transportation to and from school.

The state receives $950,000 per year from the federal government to help homeless students. Districts receive the money through competitive grants, with money going to districts with the greatest need.

The money can be used for a variety of activities for homeless students, including: helping to defray the excess cost of transportation; tutoring, instruction and enriched educational services; supplies and materials; and early childhood education programs.

Districts that do not receive McKinney-Vento grant funding can use Title I or other state or federal funding sources to support the educational needs of homeless students.

 

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