Schools facing rise in homeless students
Schools serving homeless children are seeing an increase in enrollment, straining their ability to serve the most vulnerable students.
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As a trained reading specialist, Ms. Bermingham has set up a reading clinic where she works with a small group of high school students with literacy challenges. Many of her students lack a quiet space to read and study because they live in shelters and other crowded conditions, she said.Skip to next paragraph
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Ms. Fuentes said students receive academic assessments every 120 days, and many of Monarch’s students are English-language learners. Despite the students’ academic challenges, the school has made steady progress on the state’s standardized academic tests, Ms. Fuentes said.
Meeting Special Needs
The new Monarch School facility will include a health clinic, since homeless students are more likely to face health challenges, including obesity, dental diseases, and gastrointestinal problems, according to a 2004 report [PDF] from the Department of Health and Human Services.
Ms. Fuentes says the students who come to Monarch spend an average of six months at the school, but some students attend the school for far less time.
Patricia Graham, 19, a Monarch School alumna who is now a sophomore at Connecticut College in New London, Conn., came to Monarch School after her family was evicted from their home the summer before 9th grade, in 2005. She stayed long enough to graduate.
As an honors student in middle school, Ms. Graham grappled with the reality that Monarch offered no advanced courses, such as those offered through the International Baccalaureate or Advanced Placement programs, that would make her a more competitive applicant to colleges. However, she stayed at Monarch because of the unique services the school offered, services that she felt she could not get in other schools. She also stayed because she believed her teachers were more understanding of the circumstances that affected her family.
“It really helped me with my home life,” Ms. Graham said. “I’m still in contact with teachers I had at Monarch.”
Ms. Fuentes says Monarch’s services include shower and laundry facilities, conflict mediation, and expressive arts therapy and mandatory after-school tutoring for the students who need it.
“We make sure students are exposed to extracurricular activities that other students who are not homeless have access to,” Ms. Fuentes said.
Such activities includes a Junior Achievement-supported program called Butterfly Enterprises, which allows students to learn all components of business by creating and selling artistic products, such a butterfly-themed jewelry; a steel drum band; photography; athletics; and a vegan baking course. The school is also open year-round, and it offers full-time academic instruction in the summer.
Mr. Garcia, co-principal, says summer school instruction is a time for intervention for those students. “That’s when we’re filling any academic gaps students may have,” Mr. Garcia said. Ms. Fuentes said students tell school officials over and over that they have this sense of family because everyone knows their situation.“It’s not an easy population to work with,” Ms. Fuentes said, “and their needs are so great.”