The Kern County Superintendent of Schools’ McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Program announced Monday it's ramping up support to Kern County schools to identify and connect schools with families struggling with housing, especially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a news release.
The McKinney-Vento Act is a federal law ensuring immediate enrollment, educational stability and social supports in any public school to homeless students and unaccompanied youth living in emergency shelters, motels, cars and campgrounds or who are living with other families due to loss of housing or economic hardship.
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 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance end later this year. Prior to the pandemic, Kern County had the ninth 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.
KCSOS’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Program has expanded its outreach to assist local school districts with identification of homeless youth and direct outreach to identified families so they're aware of available benefits. Strategies include:
• Launching a new, countywide online referral form linking families to school districts McKinney-Vento contacts for services;
• Online trainings to teachers and front office staff identifying students who may be eligible for homeless educational support;
• Redesigning community awareness materials so newly homeless families understand their rights and accompanying benefits; and
• Developing a peer-to-peer mentoring group for homeless students this fall.
Any family that's in an inadequate living situation due to loss of housing, economic hardship or similar reasons, and are interested in additional support and resources for their children in school, should complete an online referral form (http://bit.ly/ReferKernMV) or contact education liaison, Rolando Hernandez, at 636-4900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.