Number of Homeless Students in Kern Schools Expected to Rise Due to Pandemic

Rob Meszaros
Kern County Superintendent of Schools

The Kern County Superintendent of Schools’ McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Program announced today that it is ramping up support to Kern County schools to help identify and connect schools with families who are struggling with housing, especially those as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The McKinney-Vento Act is a federal law that ensures immediate enrollment, educational stability, and social supports in any public school to homeless students and unaccompanied youth who are living in emergency shelters, motels, cars, and campgrounds or who are living with other families due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason.

Homeless advocates in California warn communities that mass unemployment caused by the coronavirus pandemic will create new waves of youth and family homelessness in the upcoming months, especially once eviction moratoriums and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance end later this year. Prior to the pandemic, Kern County had the 9th highest homeless student population among the state’s 58 counties and the highest among Central Valley counties.

“We expect our schools to see a rise in the number of students who are newly homeless because of this pandemic,” said Curt Williams, Director of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Services Program.

“If they are not identified by the school and protected under McKinney-Vento, these students will become more at risk of changing schools, being chronically absent, and falling behind their classmates.”

Research shows that during a single year, 97 percent of homeless students move up to three times and 40 percent attend two different schools. This disruption can result in four to six months of learning loss, delays in enrollment, lost education records, and loss of high school credits, which may put children experiencing homelessness years behind their peers.

For this reason, KCSOS’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Program has expanded its outreach efforts to assist local school districts with the identification of homeless youth and direct outreach to identified families so they are aware of available benefits. Strategies include:

• Launching a new, county-wide Online Referral Form to link families to their school district
McKinney-Vento contacts for services;

• Online training to teachers and front office staff on identifying students who may be eligible for homeless education support;

• Redesigning community awareness materials so that newly homeless families understand their rights and accompanying benefits; and

• Developing a peer-to-peer mentoring group for homeless students to begin this fall.

“Families that are struggling with housing and have to move around a lot, will not always self-identify, often because of embarrassment or fear that child protective services may get involved,” said Williams. “We want families to know that their children can stay in the same school after they become homeless because schools can provide them with a source of stability and normalcy in otherwise difficult circumstances.”

Any family that is in an inadequate living situation due to loss of housing, economic hardship or similar reasons, and are interested in additional support and resources for your children in school, should complete an online referral form (http://bit.ly/ReferKernMV) or contact our education liaison, Rolando Hernandez, at
661-636-4900 or rhernandez@kern.org.

ABOUT THE KCSOS MCKINNEY-VENTO PROGRAM
The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act ensures educational rights and protections for children and youth experiencing homelessness. In Kern County, there were approximately 5,075 students in county K-12 public schools identified as homeless under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act during the 2019-20 school year.

The Kern County Superintendent of Schools Office McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Program provides support and resources to the 47 school districts across Kern County to implement the McKinney-Vento Act. The program takes a collaborative approach by providing technical assistance to district homeless liaisons, social services agencies, and community-based organizations that are involved in working with homeless children and youth.

For more information about the KCSOS McKinney-Vento Program, visit https://kern.org/instructionalservices/homeless-youth-services/ and follow us on Twitter at @KernFYSCP.

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