In Muscogee County School District, we focus on the philosophy that “Schools Can’t Do It Alone”. Collaboration and coordination between schools and community partners will improve identification and recruitment of children experiencing homelessness while increasing the potential for expanding services to families and cross-training key stakeholders. Partners will complete surveys and environmental scans to create a comprehensive local collaborative to increase awareness and identify needs of our students and families in transition. The McKinney-Vento staff will continue to focus on building fundamental partnerships and relationships with community leaders, school personnel, and policy makers who have resources to provide to students in transition. We currently have operational partnerships local community agencies that provide direct services to our students and parents in the McKinney-Vento program. Our goal is to increase awareness of McKinney-Vento by expanding our partnerships with local agencies who will provide immediate wrap around services to our McKinney-Vento students and families. It is our objective to collaborate on city-wide projects and conduct Awareness and Sensitivity Trainings with these agencies to develop new outreach programs that directly impact our McKinney-Vento students and families.
Success and Beyond is a district-wide initiative and outreach program to identify, enroll, and assure a quality education and college/career readiness for all students experiencing homelessness. Homelessness presents an array of needs; therefore, our needs assessment process is ongoing and designed to be both qualitative and quantitative. MCSD uses a multi-tiered approach to assessing and addressing the needs of McKinney-Vento students and families. The multi-tiered needs assessment process includes the following measures:
The SRQ is designed to collect formative data aimed at identifying families and youth with living arrangements that are defined as homeless according to federal guidelines. In August and January of each school year, the SRQ is sent to 32, 828 students in pre-kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high schools and programs in MCSD to be disseminated to parents. For organizational purposes, the forms are color-coded to denote the school level. Prior to 2013, school administrators were asked to input his or her school’s data based on the SRQ into our student information systems (Infinite Campus). M-V staff found that the data was not always accurate, which often caused a delay in services. To overcome this issue, administrators are now required to send all forms to the M-V department for review. Schools administrators are given a deadline to return all completed forms. The M-V and temporary staff members cross-reference 32, 828 forms with school rosters and make calls to the building level administrator when forms are omitted or are not return by the designated deadline. This new procedure was successful in ensuring that all forms were return and processed in a timely manner to ensure that family needs are judiciously met by M-V staff members. Because families living situations could change throughout the school year, SRQs are disseminated to 56 schools again in January to identify the needs of our families in transition.
The SAF, qualitative and quantitative in design, serves as a tool to be utilized by Homeless Children and Youth, HCY, unaccompanied youth, parents, school district personnel, and community agencies in an effort to identify, assess, and address the needs of families and students in transition. The SAF is a succinct formative and summative document that initiates an open dialogue with M-V staff members and parents concerning the needs of the student and family. This document houses questions related to demographics, prior school enrollments, transportation needs, before/after school programs, special education/gifted needs, and specific needs to eliminate educational barriers. In an effort to meet the needs of the total child, the SRQ and SAF function as standard tool for developing and monitoring policy and procedures, data collection, and planning quality personal/social, academic, and career programs for students and families in transition.
In addition to this needs assessment process, M-V Staff members conduct ongoing community and system-wide trainings on the M-V Homeless Act and SRQ/SAF processes with Parents, Teachers, Building-level Administrators, School Social Workers, School Counselors, Graduation Coaches, Title 1 personnel, Bus Drivers, Transportation Supervisors, Food Nutrition Staff, ESOL, educational screenings, Teaching and Learning, Paraprofessionals, Custodial Staff, Parent Coordinators, Central Registration, School Nurses and Clinicians, and Program for Exceptional Students. Central Registration staff members are also trained on legal requirements for immediate enrollment.
To accurately assess and address the needs our McKinney-Vento students and families, data obtained from the SRQs, SAFs, and Student Attendance Protocol Meetings is used by the M-V staff to complete Data Digs twice a year. The MCSD Information Technology department works closely with the Staff to develop Infinite Campus (student information system) reports. The Early Warning System was developed to summarize demographics, attendance data, out of school suspensions, standardized testing results, academic performance. This software alerts school personnel when a student misses five or more days, receives a discipline referral, does not meet standards on standardized testing or makes 69 or below fails a course by highlighting the area of concern green, yellow, or red. This information allows the M-V staff to initiate systemic approaches to addressing the needs of students in transition by creating relevant programs, tutoring options and supplies, and credit and attendance recovery opportunities.
Unfortunately, the District can not provide monetary assistance to support housing. However, we can link families to our Community Partners to possibly provide necessary resources. In addition, families in transition can dial 2-1-1 on a landline or cell phone to receive information regarding available resources within our community.
Keeping children and youth in homeless situations connected to school provides them with a source of stability and normalcy in otherwise chaotic and frightening circumstances. School stability supports academic achievement and mental and emotional security.
The McKinney-Vento Act requires schools to enroll students experiencing homelessness immediately, even if the student is unable to provide documentation normally required for enrollment. This documentation may include academic, immunization, medical, and other records, or proof of residency, age, or guardianship. Districts also may not delay a student’s enrollment due to lack of school uniform or schools supplies and must supply students with these items if the student is unable to do so. The school must make the best immediate academic placement possible based on the information available while waiting for school records, special education documents, medical records, or other needed information. The Homeless Liaisons or his or her designee must assist unaccompanied youth with the enrollment process.
The McKinney-Vento Act defines enrollment to mean permitting students to attend classes and participate fully in school activities. This includes all school services and activities such as school meals, special education, academic support, extracurricular activities, and others.
Although the Act does not define immediate, the standard dictionary definition is “without delay.” Therefore, the student must begin attending classes with participating fully in school activities without delay. Generally, that would mean the same or the following day. However, in cases of major disasters where large numbers of students are displaced and in crisis, enrollment in a few days may be considered to be “without delay,” depending on the specific circumstances.
Students must be allowed to attend their school of origin "to the extent feasible." [School of origin is defined as the school the student attended when permanently housed, or the school in which the student was last enrolled. 42 U.S.C. §11432(g)(3)(G).] Changing schools significantly impedes students’ academic and social growth. The literature on highly mobile students indicates that it can take a student four to six months to recover academically after changing schools. Many studies also have found highly mobile students to have lower test scores and overall academic performance than peers who do not change schools. Therefore, the McKinney-Vento Act calls for school districts to maintain students in their school of origin to the extent feasible, unless that is against the wishes of the parent of guardian. 42 U.S.C. §11432(g)(3). Students have the right to attend the school building of origin; this provides continuity of instruction, teachers, and peers. Considerations for changing schools, other than as a result of a parent, guardian or unaccompanied youth’s wishes, must be based on a student-centered, individualized determination. Factors that may be considered include: the age of the child or youth; the impact the commute may have on the student’s education; personal safety issues; the students’ need for special instruction; length of anticipated stay in temporary shelter or other temporary location; and time remaining in the school year. There may be other student-centered factors not enumerated here that will help determine feasibility. Above all, feasibility is a child-centered decision.
Unaccompanied youth is defined as a youth not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian. 42 U.S.C. §11434A(6). The Act does not provide an age range.
The McKinney-Vento Act applies to children and youth age 21 and under, consistent with their eligibility for public education services under state and federal law. For students receiving special education services, federal law provides the right to access services until age 22. 20 U.S.C. §1412(a)(1)(A).
Yes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Child Nutrition Division issued a policy in 2002 (later enacted into law by the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004) that makes any child, identified as homeless by a liaison or shelter director, automatically eligible for free school meals. They do not have to complete an application.
Yes. Every school district must designate a liaison for students experiencing homelessness. 42 U.S.C. §11432(g)(1)(J)(ii). One of the liaison's duties is to identify children and youth who meet the statutory definition of homeless. 42 U.S.C. §11432(g)(6)(A)(i). School districts must enroll students experiencing homelessness immediately. If, after enrollment, it is determined that a student is not homeless as defined in the law, school districts should follow the policies that are in place to address other forms of fraud. Written notice should be given to the parent, guardian, or youth, including his or her right to appeal the decision.