Large Number of Homeless Students in RPS

The number of officially homeless students in the City’s school district has more than doubled over the last two years, and school officials said it is both a sobering and expensive turn of events.

As of the end of the last term (December 21st), the schools reported that there is an all-time high of 78 homeless students in the district – a number that typically ratchets up in the colder winter months, meaning the number is expected to grow.

That is compared to just 30 homeless students through the entire year during the 2009-2010 school year.

“That’s the most homeless kids we’ve ever had,” said Superintendent Paul Dakin. “The amount of poverty in the district is way up. I think it’s a change in demographics and also the amount of rental properties here. When a home is coming on line here for sale, and someone buys it, there ends up being way more people living in that home than ever before. Many of them are kids and they are the kids of extended family living with the homeowner.”

The other part of the story is the cost of transporting those students from other communities. First of all, most of the students classified as homeless are not living on the street in the traditional sense. The definition reflects students whose families are not living in a permanent situation. For instance, if they lost their home or apartment, and had to move in with relatives or friends, the student would be classified as homeless.

Likewise, if they have had to move into temporary housing or into a shelter, they would also be classified as homeless.

Some of the 78 students are homeless and still living in the city.

However, many have had to move to other communities and, under state law, can still attend schools in Revere if they so choose.

Under the McKinley-Vento Act, schools are required to provide transportation to homeless students who have had to move away – both to and from school. Many times this means sending a bus or a taxi to pick them up, resulting in large transportation bills that have to be split between the old school and the new district where they live.

By the end of the term this year, the Revere schools had already spent $196,439 transporting the 78 students currently homeless. In 2009-2010, the entire year’s expenditure amounted to $225,000.

“There are taxpayer implications here due to the transportation,” said Dakin. “If they’re homeless on Rt. 1, we have to go get them and bring them back. That’s not such a big deal, but the McKinley-Vento Act protects them even if they’re in Brockton. We would have to go to a place as far away as Brockton and pick them up and bring them back if they still wanted to attend Revere schools. That can get expensive, but that’s the law.”

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