Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Homeless kids and virtual learning: How local schools are addressing the need for food, resources during the coronavirus

(WYDaily file/Courtesy of Unsplash)
(WYDaily file/Courtesy of Unsplash)

For students and their families, this school year has looked different than most.

All because of the coronavirus.

Some families have experienced job loss, reduced work hours with some parents even quitting a full-time job to teach their children at home.

Instead of gathering in classrooms and seeing their classmates, students now tune into Zoom meetings for class and do homework assignments online–––from home.

And some families now find themselves homeless.

Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools and the York County School Division decided to start the 2020-2021 school year with remote learning.

So how are these school districts helping students and their families who are homeless access services such as education and meals when everything is virtual?

Eileen Cox, spokeswoman for WJCC Schools, sent the following statement to WYDaily from Stephanie Bourgeois, senior director for Student Services.

“At the beginning of each year our school social workers personally connect with families with students who are designated under McKinney-Vento,” according to the statement. “The social workers verify school placements and work to ensure families have what they need to start the school year.”

“This year their work included assisting with the delivery of electronic devices to families to support remote learning,” she added.

Cox said WJCC currently has 160 students who are “classified as homeless.”

In 2019-2020 school year, there were 356 homeless students.

While the district has less homeless students this time around, Cox said the numbers “vary greatly throughout the year.”

Cox said WJCC has established meal sites where people can come to specific schools and pick up meals.

“We have grab and go meals that we’ve had in place at school sites,” Cox said.

Families can pick up meals at James River Elementary School, Toano Middle School, James Blair Middle School and Matthew Whaley Elementary School from Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., according to WJCC’s website. 

She said the district sent out a survey in the beginning of summer to see which neighborhoods needed meals delivered to them, and bus drivers drive out meals to bus stops.

WJCC has provided 164,000 meals since March 13, she added.

Jim Carroll, York County School Division’s chief operations officer, said in a school board meeting on Monday that the division provided more than 19,000 meals last week.

USDA also approved for YCSD to continue distributing meals as they did for their summer plan, Carroll said, and the division is still supplying meals seven days a week for the time being.

“I think the community needs it. It’s shown through the numbers, and our team has rallied to be able to do that,” Carroll said in the meeting.

YCSD also provides transportation assistance for homeless students to get to and from school. The transportation is arranged through the homeless liaison’s office and takes roughly three to five days for arrangements to be put in place, according to the division’s webpage for homeless information and resources.

Transportation can also accommodate students participating in after school activities. York County families interested in setting up school transportation should contact homeless and foster care liaison Kimberly Snow at 757-833-7001.

In 2018, YCSD had a budget of $25,000 for transportation for homeless students according to the approved annual budget for FY2021.

Bill Bowen, chief financial officer for YCSD, said in Monday’s school board meeting the division’s overall budget is based on enrollment projections.

As for how the division keeps track of homeless students participating in online classes, YCSD was not immediately available to comment.

The current number of students classified as homeless in YCSD was not immediately available.

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Julia Marsiglianohttp://wydaily.com
Julia Marsigliano is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She covers everything on the Peninsula from local government and law enforcement agencies to family-run businesses and weather updates. Before WYDaily, she covered Hampton and Newport News for WYDaily’s sister publication, HNNDaily before both publications merged in December 2018. Julia was born in Tokyo, Japan and moved to Long Island, New York in 2001. A true New Yorker, she loves pizza, bagels and good Chinese food. Send comments, tips and other tidbits to julia@localvoicemedia.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @jmarsigliano

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