Center assists homeless Kyrene students, families
AZ Central.com – AZ,USA
Under the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, school districts must allow homeless students to attend their school of origin regardless of where their families are staying. Kyrene provides transportation to several homeless students whose temporary residences fall outside the attendance boundaries. The center reimburses some parents for transportation costs.
The act helps to ensure that a child’s educational environment remains constant in spite of his or her housing situation. Studies suggest that every time children move they lose four to six months of education, said Amanda Hamm, program manager for prevention services at Kyrene. The average homeless family moves six times a year. Once a student is identified as homeless, Hamm or Richardson contacts the family to determine what kind of help they need.
“Parents will start to cry when I call them because what they fear most is telling their children that besides losing our house, you can’t go to the school you’ve been at for years,” Richardson said.
Often, parents are not the ones to initiate contact.
“Sometimes it’s a child saying (to a teacher), ‘It was loud at the hotel last night,’ or ‘It was hard to do my homework in the car.’ Sometimes bus drivers refer us because they see a child getting out of their car to take the bus,” Hamm said.
Hamm said there are homeless students attending every Kyrene school. Ahwatukee Foothills’ Kyrene de la Sierra Elementary School, one of the last to fall into this category, serves three such students. Because the area lacks shelters, some Ahwatukee Foothills families move to the other side of South Mountain for refuge and the district buses students to and from campus.