Schools in fire-ravaged areas prepare to address new homeless population
Both teachers and students have lost homes during the recent fires in Sonoma Valley and must now come to grips with continuing the education process in an area where some schools have also been destroyed, EdSource reports.
The new homeless population adds another layer of problems to California, where the student homeless population has already jumped 20% since 2014, primarily due to economic factors.
Dealing with the logistics of school enrollment, transportation, free lunches, school repairs and mental health needs on students while trying to meet the requirements of the McKinney-Vento federal law, which requires districts to ensure homeless children receive a high-quality education, is proving to be a challenge, school administrators say.
With major hurricanes, floods and fires affecting dozens of school districts across the nation since the school year began, school leaders are facing the enormous challenge of providing a high-quality education to students under the McKinney-Vento law. School leaders in some California counties are now dealing with a massive new influx of homeless students in an area where homelessness was already a problem.
From a practical standpoint, school leaders and administrators are now forced to make a great many decisions about issues such as school assignment in areas where schools were destroyed and meeting transportation need for displaced students. Many of these decisions have to also be made with limited information as communications break down during times of natural disasters. However, school leaders can rely on some lessons schools learned in the aftermath of hurricanes Matthew and Harvey and on guidelines prepared by the federal government.
However, the most pressing issue for many teachers and staff members will be dealing with the emotional issues related to this event. For most students, the return to school will signal a return to some degree of normalcy. For others, the separation from parents after such a trauma will prove too much. Teachers also may be struggling with their own issues as some were also made homeless by this tragedy. However, this can be an opportunity to build resiliency in students and better prepare them for the next challenge life will invariably fling at them.