Bryant (KTHV) - Bryant Schools said it has identified 94 homeless students this school year. The district reports numbers have remained steady each year since the district saw an increase of homeless students in 2009.
School officials said homeless students almost doubled that year due to the economic downturn and job loss.
A spokesperson for the district said the population of homeless students also results from domestic disputes (with families living in shelters and hotels) and family displacement due to fire or other disasters. High school students who are "couch surfing" may also be classified as homeless.
Bryant Schools said it designates a trained homeless liaison at each school to ensure that homeless children and youth are identified and served.
The district says when new students register for school and at the beginning of each school year for returning students, each receives a registration packet containing a Student Residency Questionnaire. The district said it usees the form to identify students who may qualify to receive additional educational services based on living situation.
They said if returned forms indicate the student fits the homeless criteria, copies are provided to the school social worker and Parent Center coordinator who then look into the situation to verify the information about the child and family. The Food Service Department is then notified to provide students breakfast and lunch at no cost.
Bryant Schools said they work to meet all the legal requirements of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act, including providing transportation. They said it is their desire to be a support system for the students and their education.
Once designated as homeless, students remain 'homeless" for the remaining school year; however, if housing is secured by the family, the district is no longer responsible for providing transportation.
School officials said their first goal is to meet the immediate needs of the student. They work to provide clothing and school supplies in order to help the student be successful in school. Then, the district works to provide those items regular student would have access to that homeless students can't afford, such as cheer uniforms, cleats, band camp, etc.
A spokesperson with the district said a social worker and Parent Center coordinator utilize community resources first, then rely on district funds set aside for homeless students. They must sometimes work through language barriers, socio-economic and parenting issues, all while being sensitive to family situations.
(This information comes from the Bryant Public Schools Homeless Policy 1.30.13)