I have two children who are students in the Rochester Public Schools system. My simultaneously shy, but social daughter struggles to balance a busy schedule and homework. My sweet, bright son does well academically, but needs extra guidance when it comes to social situations. Both of my children have a mom and dad cheering them on, advocating endlessly, and fighting the fights they are unable to find the courage to tackle. What I mean to say is my kids are lucky. Really lucky.
Despite the social and academic challenges they face as individuals, my children have everything they need to face the school day with success. They sleep in warm beds at night, have access to food on a daily basis, are provided with reliable transportation, and have available to them all the comforts of home—including a place to do homework. If one is a student who is not as lucky as my children—if one is a student who might not have access to a place to sleep, food, or a home—how do students face the challenges of a school day? How do students do homework when you have no home?
The McKinney-Vento Law is legislation that helps to guide school districts in the process of identifying and serving students who may be experiencing homelessness. At of the date of this post, more than 400 students in Rochester Public Schools have been identified as living in unstable housing situations. These students live in one of our three local shelters, stay in low-cost local hotels, or live with relatives because of an economic hardship. They often lack access to the internet and do not have a reliable device on which to check Moodle, Google Classroom, or Skyward. Beyond the traditional electronic struggles, students experiencing homelessness may not have the basic supplies (like notebooks, backpacks, and art supplies) or a place to keep the items they need to complete the daily work assigned.
As the Transitions and Fostering Connections Coordinator, I work to provide school stability for students whose living situation may not be stable. Through the Transitions Program we can provide transportation to a student’s school of origin, access to free breakfast and lunch at school, access to community resources, assistance with school supplies, and a connection to a student’s school social worker. In addition, RPS works collaboratively with many community resources and organizations that assist with housing, medical and dental needs, food resources, and much more.
In order to provide these resources though, identification is key. There are a few ways that each school professional can help identify students who might be experiencing homelessness. Here are a few tips for educators from the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY):
Through identification, we are able to provide support. Through support, we may be able to provide the only stability a student knows. My children have what they need to face the challenges of the school day, imagine what is possible if all students were to have access to what they needed!
If you have a question about resources available for students, please consider reaching out to me.
Also, for more information on the McKinney-Vento Act, watch this video created by Anoka-Hennepin Schools:
This post brought to you by Melissa Brandt, the Transitions and Fostering Connections Coordinator for Rochester Public Schools
Connect with Melissa Brandt via email or by calling 507.328.4230
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