Homeless student count still rising

FLINT TWP. — There are 74 homeless students attending Carman-Ainsworth Schools this year and the number has been steadily climbing for five years, according to Russ Parks, assistant superintendent of operations, in a recent report to the school board.

Parks said that the 74 students identified as of official Fall student count day are up from 37 at the same time last year.

“ The numbers have been climbing every year since 2006-07,” Parks said. “ This year they are already high. Last school year (2010-11) we had twice as many homeless children as the previous year.”

Parks also reported that the district is responsible for transporting six homeless students back to their schools of origin in Holly and Bentley, as mandated by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

The federal law dealing with the education of homeless youth in public schools was reauthorized as Title X, Part C, of the No Child Left Behind Act in January 2002.

Under McKinney-Vento, homeless students must be identified and provisions made for them including transportation, meals and other special services based on needs.

Of the 74 students identified in C-A so far, 38 are in elementary school, 21 are in middle school and 15 are in high school. Some of them often are members of the same family. Their Identities and privacy are protected by federal law.

McKinney-Vento defines homelessness as individuals who lack a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence. That includes families who live at a shelter, in a hotel, motel or vehicle, or campground, on the street, in an abandoned building, or doubled up with friends or relatives because they cannot find or afford housing.

C-A homeless students are identified in various ways including by how questions are answered at school registration, or by a parent when contacting the school to transfer a child out of school or to notify of an address change or adverse circumstances such as a house fire. Sometimes school officials find out because of a comment from a student to a teacher, counselor or secretary which is then followed up on. Building secretaries are well-versed in McKinney-Vento requirements and astute at identifying students, Parks said.

School districts do not receive funds to assist with homeless students. The Genesee Intermediate School District gets a McKinney-Vento grant which supplies each child that requests it with a backpack, school supplies, a package of underwear, socks, gloves, hat and a fleece blanket. The GISD also will supply one week’s worth of emergency MTA bus passes or gas cards if needed per family. Carman-Ainsworth then provides any needed bus transportation or gas cards for the remainder of the school year using its own transportation dollars.

Homeless students automatically qualify for free meals at school. Title 1 funds are used to cover other school supplies needed, educational field trips and such. If Carman-Ainsworth students were required to wear uniforms, the district also would be required to provide those to homeless students.

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