September 19th, 2017 | by SanTan Sun News
By COLLEEN SPARKS, Staff
Homeless students in the Chandler Unified School District dealing with the stress and chaos of not having a permanent place to sleep at night will get a boost because of a grant.
The district is one of 32 districts and schools in Arizona receiving grants for Homeless Education Services. More than $1 million in grants will benefit about 30,000 homeless students in urban and rural districts.
The federal money for the program comes from the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Improvements Act of 2001.
The Arizona Department of Education executes the program, as well as the grant application process, while the Arizona State Board of Education approves the grants.
Homeless students in the Chandler district will receive tutoring from certified teachers after school, as well as over spring and summer breaks, said Monica Romero, district director of federal programs and state initiatives.
These include homeless high school students who do not live with either a mother or father and elementary school children who are homeless.
The Chandler district has 180 homeless students now but expects it will have identified more than 300 homeless students by December, Romero said.
The homeless students will get help in any other subjects in which they need assistance, in groups of no more than five pupils per teacher, she added. Sometimes they will get one-on-one tutoring.
“The students have gaps based on lack of a stable home due to stress, lack of focus and concentration during the difficult times outside of school,” Romero said.
She said many of the homeless students are “couch surfing,” moving around to stay with different people without their own permanent place to stay overnight.
“It may be from many different issues,” Romero said. “Some parents might lose employment. We have students who just get in a bad family situation. There’s so many different scenarios. Some of our kids find amazing Chandler residents who take them under their wing.”
The federal grant is not the only way the Chandler district is able to help homeless students, Romero said.
A volunteer group called Chandler Youth in Transition works with the Chandler district to help support district students who qualify as being either homeless or living on their own.
The program provides the students a monthly stipend and guidance to try to end the cycle of poverty and improve their future.
CYIT is a program of the nonprofit organization Homeward Bound and the Chandler school district administers it while a guidance committee steers it.
Romero said she is also grateful to Fans Across America Charitable Foundation, which operates the FANS Locker Room, through which homeless students can get toiletries, clothes, hygiene products and household items.
Eligible students in need in the Chandler district can get help with medical and dental care through the CARE Center, run by the district and supported by Dignity Health’s Chandler Regional Medical Center Children’s Dental Clinic, the City of Chandler and St. Vincent de Paul.
Romero also said the Pappas Kids Schoolhouse Foundation teams up with schools to help disadvantaged youths.
Data the Arizona Department of Education Homeless Education Office released identified more than 29,500 children in grades pre-kindergarten through 12th who were homeless and enrolled in public schools in the state during state fiscal year 2015.
“It is important to me that the needs of all of our students are met,” Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas said. “We know that these children are an especially vulnerable population. Not only have we been able to meet the needs of those currently on the program, we have also increased our aid to additional children.”
To learn more about the state’s Office of Homeless Education and the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Improvements Act of 2001, visit azed.gov/homeless.