Students Who Are Homeless Face Other Struggles

Even More Obstacles During COVID-19
Posted on 03/23/2021
Image of APS Bus(Taylor Haggerty for Ideastream.org/WCPN)

As schools shifted away from traditional education to prevent spread of the coronavirus, some students, including those facing housing insecurity, had difficulty maintaining attendance and keeping up with their class. Some of those problems continue to persist through the transition back to in-person learning.

Districts are working to meet the needs of those students, said Akron Public Schools Homeless Liaison Shannah Carino. Families had the option to choose between remote or in-person learning in the district earlier this month, she said, and about 70 percent of students opted to return to buildings.

“Once we get them to school, the school takes over and gets them everything they need,” Carino said. “Our teachers aren’t new to this situation, so they are helping any way they can.”

The return to in-person learning alleviates some concerns, Carino said. But students aren’t always reliably in a busing zone or able to get to the buildings, she said, and the transportation department is working to get vans or buses to the kids in need.

“I’m sending many transportation requests their way every day, and they’re doing whatever they can to get the kids to school from wherever the kids are, even cross-district,” Carino said.

About 30 percent of the families did opt to remain remote, Carino said. Early on in the pandemic, remote schooling led to a drop in attendance, Carino said, and the district has reached out to families to ensure any issues with connecting or getting to class are addressed.

“Our kids don’t have that consistent, steady place to work. Our families do move around a lot,” Carino said. “They don’t have a little desk with all their supplies set up in the same place every day.”

A student’s housing status can change quickly if the family is in a place of insecurity, Carino said, which impacts whether families want to be remote or in-person. The district is working with families to make sure they are safe and their needs are met, she said.

“The school needs to plan as far as how many teachers are going to do remote learning and how many are going to be doing in-person learning, so last-minute changes are not ideal,” Carino said. “But our families are going through last-minute family situation changes.”

For many of those who opted to remain remote, she said, it comes down to concerns about the virus and maintaining the patterns that have worked throughout the pandemic.

“Sometimes it’s a logistical thing, like, ‘Hey, I’ve got this figured out, we’ve got a kid working at a family member’s house and we’re just going to stick to this.’ And sometimes it’s fear of the virus,” Carino said. “They’re making really thoughtful decisions on whether or not they want their kids back in in-person learning, and we’re helping with the process.”
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