Fifty-one students in the Enumclaw School District were reported to be homeless last school year, according to the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Homeless students are counted as part of the federal McKinney-Vento act, which defines a student as homeless if he or she lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.
The act requires districts to provide homeless students with the same access to education as everyone else, including transportation to and from the same district that the student was attending before he or she became homeless, according to OSPI.
Statewide, the number of homeless students topped 27,000, reflecting an increase of 5.1 percent from 2010-11 and up 46.7 percent from 2007-08, according to OSPI.
In Enumclaw, the figure was an increase over the 32 students reported to Patch in this 2011 story series.
District officials indicated then that every effort is made to keep students in school in spite of their home situations, including providing transportation services out-of-district when students have to 'double up' with friends or family. According to the new OSPI data, 45 of the 51 students are currently in this situation. This presents a cost to the district; in 2009-10, it budgeted $14,500 for homeless transportation though spent $9,850 of that total. An increased need, however, also means the district can seek grants to supplement transportation costs.
District Director of Student Support Services Anne Chambers confirmed that the figure of 51 students matched the records she reported to OSPI last October. The increased number likely reflects a combination of continued need brought about by the economy as well as better reporting by district staff to identify families that need help, she said.
The number of homeless students in the district in 2011-12 ranged from one student each in pre-kindergarten and 10th grade to seven students in the fourth grade, according to the OSPI data.
Number of Homeless Students Grows in Enumclaw
Homeless Families ‘Thought They’d Never be in These Circumstances’
Students are considered homeless if they live in emergency or transitional shelters; motels, hotels, trailer parks or camping grounds; shared housing due to loss of housing or economic hardship; hospitals secondary to abandonment or awaiting foster care placement; cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing or similar situations; and public or private places not ordinarily used as sleeping accommodations for human beings, according to OSPI.
The lack of a stable home puts tremendous pressure on homeless students. Mobility rates are higher than students in homes, absentee rates are higher, health problems are more prevalent and graduation rates are lower, OSPI wrote.
Homeless Students in Washington State by School District
(as reported by each school district)
-- Data from OSPI