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Are ALL the Children Well? A Community of Practice Part One

Are ALL the Children Well? A Community of Practice Part One

Date of the Event: August 16, 2022 | Yatisha Blythe, Kailanya Brailey, Jessica Grotevant Webster, Emilia Guevara, Lily Klam, Ian Rashleigh McNally, Nikevia Thomas
Show Notes:

In the final installment of MAEC’s four-part homeless education webinar series, we teamed with the National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE) for a two-day community of practice. Participants audited their policies and practices related to students experiencing homelessness and developed individualized action plans based on their findings.

Part One focused on developing a shared definition of community of practice, a comprehensive overview of the McKinney Vento Act, identifying NCHE resources for schools and OST providers.

Kailanya Brailey:

Good morning. Thank you all for being with us today. If as you come in you would type your name and your state entity and role in our chat. And also we’re going to be posting a link to a Padlet that will have resources for our learning. We’d like you to access that as well. Again, good morning. Thank you for being with us today. If you would type your name, your state entity and role into the chat box and then access our Padlet link. Good ...

Kailanya Brailey:

Good morning. Thank you all for being with us today. If as you come in you would type your name and your state entity and role in our chat. And also we’re going to be posting a link to a Padlet that will have resources for our learning. We’d like you to access that as well. Again, good morning. Thank you for being with us today. If you would type your name, your state entity and role into the chat box and then access our Padlet link. Good morning. I see our participant numbers going up. Welcome all. Welcome. Again if you’re just getting in, if you would add your name and your state entity and role to the chat. We’re posting a link to a Padlet that has access for resources that you’re going to need for our community of practice work. If you would access that link as well, that’s being posted multiple times in the chat, so you just need to access it once.

I’m really excited. I see we have people from all over. You’ve got Pennsylvania, North Carolina represented, Colorado represented. Welcome, welcome. Kansas, South Carolina, welcome. Michigan, Maine. Welcome to our webinar. We’re so glad you’re here. For those of you who are just joining us, if you would add your name, your state entity and role into the chat. We’re continuing to post a link to a Padlet that’s going to have several of the resources that you’ll need for our community of practice work. You’ll need to access that link once as well. Got Virginia, Alabama, Ohio. Welcome. Just in case you’re just getting in, again, if you’ll put your name, state entity and role into the chat box and be sure to access that Padlet link.

I see we’re at 10:04. If the waiting room has steadied, we can move to our next slide. Those of you who are just now joining us again, if you’ll add your name, state, role and entity in the chat box and be sure to access that Padlet. But we’re excited. We are going to go ahead and get started. I’ll take a moment to introduce myself and then my co-facilitating partner will introduce herself and we’ll jump right into our learning. Good morning again, my name is Kailanya Brailey. I am a Senior Education Equity Specialist with the Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium, and I work primarily with CEE, which is the Center for Education Equity. And I am also a former middle school principal from South Carolina. Jessica.

Jessica Grotevant Webster:

Good morning, everyone. I’m so happy to be here with you this morning. I am Jessica Webster. I am a Senior Family Engagement Specialist for CAFE, which is our family engagement team. I too am a former middle school principal. We were just talking about the excitement of seeing our students and teachers go back to schools. It’s a great time for us to be gathering and celebrating that return to school together.

Kailanya Brailey:

Absolutely. Well, again, welcome to the, Are All the Children Well, this is a two day community of practice and this webinar is the final installment of the four part Are All the Children Well homeless education and family engagement webinar series. Next slide. We’d first like to be sure that we share with you our vision statement for our work here at MAEC. Our vision statement reflects who we are and what we stand for here at MAEC. We are a champion of innovation, collaboration and equity. Next slide.

Jessica Grotevant Webster:

As you can see, we have a very ambitious agenda for today’s session. We really believe this is a topic we could continue to explore for months, years, many, many sessions, but we’re going to do our best to spend the next two days and provide everyone with very quality community of practice. Today we’re going to start after our welcome and introductions, really framing what a community of practice is. And then we’re going to launch right into our partnership with the National Center for Homeless Education and our presenter for the day who’s going to talk to us and give us an overview about homeless education and the supports that our communities can provide to our students. We will wrap up the day with the question and answer session and then our closing activities. Next slide please.

Tomorrow I think, I don’t know if we have the day two agenda up there. Our day two agenda though, is when we’re really going to get into that community of practice, we’re going to break up into smaller groups and really look at our own practices. There we go. And really be able to really assess what we’re doing. We have some takeaways and some action steps that we could take into the future. Thank you. Next slide. For today’s webinar, we will be using the chat box to engage with our participants. We recommend that you click on the chat icon on the bottom or the top bar of your toolbar screen, but please do not use the raise hand function for today.

There will be questions and answers throughout the community of practice. And for today, we would appreciate if you would put your questions in the chat or in the what I wonder section of the Padlet. We would like everyone to be using the Padlet during this time. Next slide. For live captions, we do have live captionings enabled for today. They should show up on your screen by default. If you do not wish to use live captioning, you may use your Zoom controls at the bottom of your Zoom window to select the live transcript or close caption button, and then hide subtitles. To view them again you will go through and to turn them back on by looking at the button that says live transcript or close caption. Next slide please.

Kailanya Brailey:

I would like to give you all some background information about who we are and what we do, which will help us understand why we strive to connect and support all communities. MAEC was founded in 1992 as an education nonprofit dedicated to increasing access to a high quality education for culturally diverse linguistically and economically diverse learners. MAEC envisions a day when all students have equitable opportunities to learn and achieve at high levels. Our mission is to promote excellence and equity in education to achieve social justice. We believe that all students deserve to feel welcomed, respected and safe at school, and provided with the opportunities to thrive.

This webinar series is brought to you through both CEE and CAFE. CEE, the Center for Education Equity, operates in 15 states and territories through support from the Department of Education. We are the statewide family engagement center for Pennsylvania and Maryland. That’s going to be CAFE our Collaborative Action for Family Engagement. CAFE is a project of MAEC and they are helping to build sustainable infrastructure to support healthy family, student, and community engagement. If you look at this image, this is an overview of the region covered by the region one Equity Assistance Center, the Center for Education Equity. And as you see, we reach all the way from Maine down to Kentucky. And we also include Puerto Rico and the Virgin islands.

And CAFE again is the statewide family engagement center for Maryland and Pennsylvania. I also have the pleasure of introducing our phenomenal webinar support team. We have Ian Rashleigh McNally. He is an evaluation intern and he’s providing operations and tech support. We have Nikevia Thomas, a senior specialist. She is providing chat box support and she’s the virtual event planner. We have Lily Klam, our family engagement intern, and she’s providing social media support. We have Camilla Lagos. She is providing Spanish interpretation. And also we have Emilia Guevara, she’s also providing Spanish interpretation.

Here are our day one objectives. For today we intend to develop an understanding of the McKinney-Vento Act and also identify policies, practices, and systems of support available to students and families experiencing homelessness. Tomorrow when we come back, we’re going to audit current policies and practices used by your schools, districts, or organization to support students and families experiencing homelessness. And we’re going to work to create an action plan to support the needs of students and families experiencing homelessness. We do have some key terms provided for you in the interest of time, because there are three slides worth of key terms, including defining the McKinney–Vento Homeless Assistance Act and showing how the McKinney–Vento Act defines homelessness.

But those definitions, those terms are included in the Padlet resource. So please be sure that you have access to that Padlet link so that you have all of those key terms. Next slide and next slide and then next slide. Thank you

Jessica Grotevant Webster:

All right. Let’s get started. For our first activity we are going to ask you to access the Mentimeter, which we’re going to put into the chat box for you. What we would like you to do is we are going to review three distinct definitions or descriptions of a community of practice. And as we talk through these, we would like you to take a few moments in the Mentimeter, and please record the words from each definition or description that stand out to you as important for a community of practice. Again, we’re placing that link right in the chat for you. Our first definition is that a community of practice are groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis.

Our second description is that this is different from a team or a work group in that membership is voluntary. The goals of the community are less specific and more changeable. The results are not easily discerned or measured, and the community exists as long as its members participate. Our core principles of community of practice are that we have participation. Everyone in the community has a voice and those can be heard and people feel that they can contribute to the practice. Differences are explored and there is a commitment to practice to uncover what the work is, why we do it, how it’s done and how to have reciprocity with others who are also wanting to learn. So please take a minute. And in the Mentimeter, please indicate the words that stood out to you in those three descriptions of a community of practice.

And then as you can see our Mentimeter, our word cloud is growing. And remember on a word cloud, the biggest words are the words that are very popular. It looks like community, reciprocity, voluntary, ongoing, changeable, participation, all bigger words on the list. That there’s a commitment. Deeper knowledge. Share voices on there absolutely. Passion’s growing.

Speaker 3:

This meeting is being recorded.

Jessica Grotevant Webster:

Changeable is getting a little bigger there, right? Sylvia putting the comments advocacy. Very good point. Okay. Well, if you still have some words, feel free to put them in and we’ll continue to collect those as we move forward. But we are ready to launch with our speaker for today who we’re extremely excited to have with us. Today I am honored to introduce you to Tisha Blythe. Tisha is program specialist at the National Center for Homeless Education. Prior to joining NCHE she worked for 15 years at a school district, gaining experience as a school counselor for a title I school. A district administrator for homeless and foster care education, a district crisis team leader, and a member of the North Carolina Homeless Education Program leadership team. Tisha, thank you so much for joining us today. We look forward to learning with you.

Yatisha Blythe:

Good morning, and thank you Jessica for that warm introduction. I am excited to be here today in support of the great work that you guys are doing at MAEC. I’m also delighted to be able to have the opportunity to speak to attendees about the McKinney–Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act. Ian, if you’re ready for me, I’m ready to get started. Thank you. You can go to the next slide. Today we’re going to spend some time looking at the McKinney–Vento Act. This will be a brief overview, but it will give you a great amount of information about the McKinney–Vento Act and the provisions for children and youth who experiencing homelessness.

But before we get into the content, I just want to share with you for a few minutes about NCHE, the National Center for Homeless Education. We actually are the technical assistance and information center for the US Department of Education’s homeless education program. And if you haven’t done so, or if you’re not familiar with us, we do have a comprehensive website. And so spend some time if you have not, and just take a look at some of the resources that we have available, there’s a wealth of information on our website. Information about the law, there’s specific topics. There’s information for all types of folks. So for educators, for community, people, for parents, for youth, just a great bit of information for everyone.

We also have a toll free helpline number as well as a helpline email inbox. And so if you ever have questions related to the McKinney–Vento law meeting the needs of homeless children in youth, or how to serve families, please feel free to contact us. We do have products that are available for print and download, as well as products that are available for purchase. And then if you’re interested in becoming a part of our list serve, the link right there in the middle that says products and list serve. You can use that link to sign up for our list serve. If you’re a social media person, then please follow us on Twitter or Facebook.

They gave me a wonderful introduction again, Jessica. I am Yatisha Blythe. I go by Tisha and I am a program specialist with the National Center for Homeless Education. My email address is also listed there, if after today’s presentation you have questions or feedback you’d like to share. Next slide. During our time together today, we are going to look at a brief overview of homelessness and also the McKinney–Vento definition of homelessness. We’ll also talk about the provision of immediate enrollment for students experiencing homelessness, as well as what school selection looks like. I will just state here that sometimes people have a misconception when it comes to the school selection process for students experiencing homelessness.

It’s not a school shopping process. There are specific schools that students experiencing homelessness are entitled to attend. We’ll also talk about the dispute resolution process when there’s a disagreement between parents, guardians or unaccompanied youth and schools, about which school students will enroll in. And then for the second half of our presentation, we’ll look at the provision of transportation, some school success items. We’ll talk about public preschool, higher education, and then we’ll talk briefly about the funding resources that are available to schools, to support students experiencing homelessness. Next slide.

Okay. Before we dive into the content, let’s take a moment to set up some context. Homeless children and youth enrollment over time has risen, but around the 2018-19 school year there was a decline. If we look at the data that’s on our screen first, we can see the flow of homeless student enrollment from school year 2004, five, all the way to school year 2019, 20. And so as I said, the enrollment has grown, but we did see a decline in school year 18-19. And to put things into context, in the 2017-18 school year, that was the year in the US where we experience a lot of major hurricanes, five major hurricanes to be exact. Two of those were category four or five. Those hurricanes did impact the enrollment for homeless children and youth. And then after we recovered from the hurricanes, then the pandemic hit.

But the largest drop that we did see in enrollment was the year after Hurricane Katrina. We can see also too from our chart that’s on the screen or our graphic that’s on the screen, that on average, the number of homeless students has increased and it’s increased by about 5% each school year. Next slide. More data that I want to share with you guys to set the context, is that states often look at identification indicators. And so for those of you that are familiar with NCHE and our resources, we do have a lot of data resources. We do have state profiles on our website. And so states can use the information from identification indicators to assess what’s going on with their state.

These indicators that are on the screens, states can use these to get a sense of how their school districts are doing when it comes to identifying children and youth experiencing homelessness. And so these indicators such as the average annual change, the three year annual change, the percent of students, and then also the percent of free and reduced lunch qualified students, these indicators let states also know which ones of their school districts that may need some TA or may need some monitoring. Next slide.

Let’s about homelessness. Homelessness not in the context of adults that we see, but homelessness in the context of students. I know for some of us, we know all too well about the barriers that are created by homelessness, but most often a lot of us think about adults more so than we think about children. But some of those adults you might see out in the community, some of those adults that you might see panhandling, they are parents too. I can tell you though that with the data that is collected nationwide, the majority of students experiencing homelessness are those who are doubled up with parents or guardians. But be that as it may, homelessness does create barriers for students.

These are the kids who are in school that have a lot of addresses. They’re moving around a lot. They’re having to change schools a lot. These are the students who are often hungry or tired or stressed out. They may be lacking health assessments, birth certificates, any other documents that may be needed for enrollment. And these are often the children who lack reliable transportation, or they may not have a parent or guardian. They could be a young person, a youth who’s unaccompanied and out experiencing things on their own and figuring out life and trying to attend school. These are often the children who are disconnected from those positive social ties as well.

Also with homelessness, there is an impact on education. It affects education. Think about someone who’s housing insecure. These are not only the kids who might be lacking school supplies, but they also may lack a place to study, somewhere to even sit down and work on homework or study or read. Oftentimes in schools, these are the children who have experienced a great deal of trauma, and sometimes trauma can be misdiagnosed as a special education need or children in youth indeed may have some special education needs that are undiagnosed. We’re talking about the children who are at high risk of being, are potentially dropping out of school. They’re often chronically absent, and these are also our children who oftentimes perform poorly on their school assessments as well as get lower grades in schools.

I think this may be our last piece of data. And I’m not going to go through every single one of these categories. As we all know there are subpopulations of children and youth who are at greater risk of experiencing homelessness. But I want us all to just look in our far left corner on the screen where it says that 346% youth with less than a high school diploma, or GED, have a 340% risk of being homeless or experiencing homelessness. And the first time that I saw this data, this data is provided by Chapin Hall. This is actually from their 2017 Voices of Youth Count. I know that was a few years ago, maybe about four, five years ago, but this data is still powerful. It still resonates. So no matter if you’re working in the field of education, or if you’re working in the community as an advocate, or if you’re working out of school or before school programs, this is some data that probably gives you the chills a little bit.

So just wanted to share this with you. Like I said, I know it’s a little bit older, but it’s still some very powerful data. It helps us think about our work and our advocacy and the subpopulations of youth that we should be champion around and rallying for to help them be successful and have access to school success. Next slide. And you can go past this one to Ian. Thank you so much. Now we’re going to look at the McKinney–Vento Act. If you did not know the federal legislation for the education of homeless children and youth is under the McKinney–Vento Act. And so this is the piece of the law that establishes the definition of homeless that is used in public schools. And the way that the McKinney–Vento Act is designed, it is designed to address some of those unique barriers that are experienced by students who are in homeless situations.

So some of those barriers we talked about that impact their education and affects their education. McKinney–Vento does focus on the areas of school identification, school enrollment, school stability, and success of homeless children and youth. And it targets children and youth who are in grades pre-K through high school, through the completion of high school. Under the McKinney–Vento Act there’s also a requirement that every school district appoints a local homeless education liaison. I do believe that this PowerPoint will be provided to all attendees after today. If you’re interested in learning more information about McKinney–Vento Act, this link at the bottom of this slide will take you to the non-regulatory guidance published by the US Department of Education.

And just to let you guys know, any other links that you see on the slides, they are active links. So again, when you get this PowerPoint after today, you can access any of the links for further information that you would like to read about at a later time. Next slide. Under the McKinney–Vento Act, the definition of homeless means that a child or youth is lacking a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence. And when we get to our next side, we’re going to look at those three words just a little bit deeper. But children and youth who are lacking a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residents are those who are eligible for McKinney-Vento services. So these are living situations that look like being doubled up, sharing the housing of others due to loss of housing, economic hardship or a similar reason.

These are also children who may be living in hotels or motels or abandoned trailer parks in campgrounds. They may be in a domestic violence shelter or homeless shelter or transitional shelter. These are also those that are unsheltered. They may be sleeping in their car. They may be sleeping in an abandoned building or some public place that’s not designed for dwelling or a place that’s not ordinarily used for regular sleeping accommodations. And then also migratory children that may be in any of the aforementioned living situations. Next slide. And please know that that list we just looked at, that is not an exhaustive list, but those are some of the most common living arrangements. So as I stated, we’re going to look at those words, fixed, regular and adequate.

And at NCHE we get asked about these words a lot, because there’s not necessarily a definition for them in the law, but if you look at the Miriam Webster dictionary, fixed means stationary. It means permanent. It means it’s not going to change. Regular means it’s predictable, it’s routine, it’s consistent. And then adequate means lawfully and reasonably sufficient. And so different communities have different regulations as to what’s considered standard. We get into that thing of looking at what substandard housing conditions looks like. And then also under adequate, it means sufficient for meeting the physical and psychological needs typically met in a home environment. The way that we frame fixed regular and adequate, when you’re looking at a housing situation is, can the student go to the same place, fixed every night, regular to sleep in a safe in sufficient space that’s adequate. Okay? Next slide.

Eligibility determinations for McKinney–Vento programs, I just mentioned in a couple of slides back that the McKinney–Vento Act requires public schools to have a liaison who’s responsible for overseeing the McKinney–Vento program. They’re responsible for ensuring that students are identified and receive services. Having the job as the liaison, that requires a great deal of collaboration. Collaboration with school staff, possibly even district staff, but also coordinating with other agencies. So that means community agencies, shelter partners, after school program partners, before school program partners, any community based agencies or organizations that may be serving families experiencing homelessness.

And when it comes down to making those eligibility determinations, the liaison of course is considering all circumstances. But the thing to remember is that there’s no cookie cutter recipe with eligibility, determinations, everything is done on a case by case basis. And so when liaisons call and ask us questions about eligibility determinations, or need assistance helping them process eligibility determinations, then we always say rule of thumb, when in doubt, just look at the legislative wording, compare the living situation to the legislative wording that we just looked at, which is that fixed, regular and adequate. And the thing about fixed, regular and adequate situation, doesn’t have to meet all three things, any one of those things can be missing when it comes to the eligibility determination.

And we also have a brief that’s related to determinate eligibility. If we have any education staff or liaisons or even state coordinators on the webinar today, then we also have that brief that is very helpful for eligibility determinations. Next slide. Now I’m going to give you guys a chance to participate in activity. We’re going to have an interactive exercise. I want you guys to use the chat to respond to this question. This is an eligibility scenario. Mr. Bradford lost his job in August. The family moved in with his parents last week. So based upon the information that you’ve heard so far, would you qualify the Bradford children for McKinney–Vento services? Would you say yes? Would you say no? Or would you think more information is needed?

I’m seeing some fast folks. Yes. Need more information. Absolutely. More information. You guys are super smart. And now I appreciate the quick responses. Absolutely in this case we would definitely need more information. And based off of what we’ve talked about so far, we can see that this family is definitely appearing to be in a doubled up living situation, but we don’t quite know why. Other than the fact that Mr. Bradford lost his job, we don’t know if this is temporary or we don’t know if they’ve had a conversation to make this a permanent living arrangement. So great job and thanks for your participation. Next slide.

Under the definition of homeless students, there’s also a definition for unaccompanied homeless youth. And this is a definition that trips people up a lot. To be considered unaccompanied homeless youth, two criteria have to be met. The first one is that the students living arrangement must meet the definition of homeless. So those living situations of being in a shelter, being doubled up, living somewhere unsheltered. And then also the student must be considered unaccompanied, and that’s defined as not being in the physical custody of a parent or guardian. Accompanied would mean you’re living with your parent or your guardian. Unaccompanied means you’re not in the physical custody of a parent or guardian. We also have a great eligibility flow chart for unaccompanied homeless youth on our website. But this is one, I will say that trips people up a lot.

So with this, when they do have to meet the definition of a homeless student and not be in the custody of their parent or guardian. And later on when we talk about that transition to higher education, we’ll talk about some supports and resources and things that are in place for unaccompanied youth who are transitioning to higher education. Next slide. All right. We’ve got one more. Here’s a youth scenario. Sam is enrolled in Grover High School, but he’s seeking enrollment at Asbury High School. He says he’s been staying with a friend’s family for a few days. is Sam eligible for McKinney–Vento, just based off of this information? Is that a yes, no, or I need more information?

Okay. We’ve gotten some great responses. And you guys are correct, more information is needed. We do know that Sam is saying he’s staying with a friend’s family. He’s been there for a few days, but we don’t quite know all the circumstances in his living situation. It could be a planned arrangement. It could be his parents are on vacation and he’s just staying there for a week. And while he’s there he’s decided that he wants to go to school there. He may try to think that he could go to school there. We don’t know that. But there’s not enough details listed. We definitely do need more information to determine if Sam is experiencing homelessness and if he’s an unaccompanied youth. Okay. Next slide.

Now I just want us to pause for a few moments. There will be some time for Q&A at the very end, but there’s also a few little breaks in between just to give you guys some time to ask any questions. I don’t see anything in the chat box, and I know that the raise hand feature has been disabled. If there are no questions at this time, we will move forward. Now we’re going to talk about school selection and enrollment. Thanks for your comment. I think we may have one more or a few more in the presentation. When it comes to enrollment, homeless students do have the right to be immediately enrolled after they’ve been identified under the McKinney–Vento Act. And that word enrolled or enrollment includes attending classes and participating fully in school activities.

So not just we’ve done the affidavit or the application, but we’ve been sitting in the office for two days because we don’t have classes, but it means attending classes and participating fully in school activities. And so again, enrollment should be immediate. Even if this is a student who is lacking health assessments or medical records, if they’re lacking transcripts, if they’ve missed an enrollment or application deadline, or even if this is a student who has a history of being absent or chronically absent, or they have outstanding fees for lunch or a device, whatever, those things do not matter, those things would be seen as barriers. And so just know that homeless students do have the right to be immediately enrolled and they should be attending classes and participating fully.

You can advance. Thank you. Also when it comes to enrollment, LEAs are charged with developing and reviewing and revising policies that remove barriers to the enrollment and retention of homeless students. Those outstanding fines, those outstanding fees, if they’re chronically absent, LEAs are charged with looking at their policies and determining ways that they can revise those policies, those practices, so that they’re not inflicting barriers on children and youth who are experiencing homelessness. And those local liaisons who have lots of responsibility, they are responsible for helping parents and guardians and unaccompanied youth, if they are missing some of those things. If they don’t have immunizations or if they’re missing a health assessment, or if they’re missing some type of screening, they are the ones who are responsible for helping parents and unaccompanied youth and guardians get access to those things.

The one thing that I do want to share with you guys is that McKinney–Vento is a federal education law. It’s not just a law that’s specific to certain states. It is absolutely a federal law that supersedes any state or local law or policy. Next slide. Now let’s talk about school selection. Earlier when I was sharing with you that we talk about enrollment in school selection. Sometimes people think that under the McKinney–Vento Act, there are provisions there that it means that parents or guardians or unaccompanied youth can school shop. They can go to school wherever they want because they like the school over here better or this school is better at athletics or this school has more technology or this school is in a so called better neighborhood. And that’s not the case. And please don’t think that all people experience a homelessness think like that, but sometimes in dispute resolution, these are things that come out.

When it comes to school selection, students can attend either their local attendance zone school or their school of origin. The local attendance zone school is a school in the area where they’re living. It’s any public school that students who are living in the same attendance area are eligible to attend. That’s the local attendance zone school. Then there’s the school of origin. And this is the school in which the student was last enrolled when they were permanently housed, the school they last attended. And then also with the reauthorization of ESSA in 2015, this included preschool programs. So not all preschool programs, public preschool programs. And then the feeder pattern schools at the next grade level have also been included in that school of origin definition.

And so let’s look at those feeder pattern schools just to make sure that’s clear. It used to be years prior, if you were a student who just completed, let’s say you completed fifth grade last school year, and that was the terminal grade for that elementary school, you were going to sixth grade in a new building, it used to be before that the only option for school attendance or school selection was that local attendance school. But with the reauthorization of ESSA, that has changed and the feeder pattern schools are now included in the school of origin definition. Our little graphic on the screen, we’ve got school A and we’ve got school B. Brian is a fifth grader enrolled in his school of origin, school A, which is a K through five school.

Students at school A, feed into school B in sixth grade. Therefore Brian’s school of origin includes school A and school B, which is the designated receiving school. And so I’m sure you guys know that with a lot of schools starting this week in the next coming weeks or after Labor Day, we’re getting a lot of phone calls about this right here. Sometimes that summer break folks forget this little one piece of the McKinney–Vento law. Just know that this is a part of that school of origin definition and students can attend that feeder pattern school. Next slide.

Some more information about the school of origin, is that it’s presumed that remaining in the school of origin is in the student’s best interest. And oftentimes that is the case, but there are times or will be times when it might be contrary to the request of the parent or the guardian or the unaccompanied youth. In situations like this, when it comes down to determining what school selection is, we have to look at student centered factors. You’re looking at the impact of mobility on their achievement and their education. If there’s something related to their health or their safety, and also McKinney–Vento encourages or suggests that you give priority to the request of the parent or guardian or unaccompanied youth.

And one thing that the Department of ED encourages is that you also look at siblings. They do encourage sibling school placement when McKinney–Vento eligibility determinations in school selection are made. Those words best interests that we talked about it is presumed that for students to remain in the school of origin is in their best interest. And so students can continue attending the school of origin for the duration of the homeless experience. The entire time that they are homeless. They can even attend until the end of the school year in which they will move into permanent housing. If we have a student that is eligible for services now, but let’s say they become housed at Christmas time, they’re still eligible to receive services until the end of the school year.

And also when they become homeless in between school years. So if there is a family who experienced homelessness in March of this year and they were under the McKinney–Vento program until the end of the school year, well, they very well may still be homeless when they start school this week or next week or in the next few weeks that are coming up. And so if they’re still in that same homeless living situation, then they would still be eligible for services. It’s just that a new eligibility determination would be needed, but they can still be eligible and still attend the school of origin. Next slide.

Let’s talk about homeless liaisons. Homeless liaisons have a lot of responsibilities under the McKinney–Vento Act. They are responsible for ensuring that homeless children, youth are identified by school personnel, as well as through coordination with other agencies. They’re also responsible for ensuring that they’re identified, enrolled and have full and equal opportunity to succeed in school. And so that means making sure that they’re connected to those educational services that they may need. This includes those head start programs and early intervention programs. This includes services under IDEA. This also includes doing referrals for families, for homeless children and youth to healthcare services, dental services, mental health services or any other housing referrals.

And also liaisons bear the responsibility of ensuring that they inform parents or youth about educational opportunities that are available to them. Next slide. Another responsibility that liaisons have is to ensure that awareness materials are disseminated, not just in schools, but also in the community. So those may be awareness posters, those may be pamphlets that are at churches, child welfare agencies, human services offices, just making sure there’s public notice of what the educational rights are of students who are in homeless living situations. And then also a requirement is to make sure that enrollment disputes are handled accordingly. Excuse me, guys. I’m so sorry. Allergies are messing up today.

They are also responsible for informing parents and youth about transportation services. And those are those transportation services to the school of origin. Another part of the liaison responsibility is to train school staff. So train school staff, train staff in the community, make sure that everyone is aware of the provisions of McKinney–Vento and the supports that are available for students experiencing homelessness. Next slide. Actually, I’m sorry Ian, can you go back. Last bullet on this slide, I mentioned that we would talk about unaccompanied homeless youth and about supports available to them. And we’ll talk a little bit later about FAFSA, but when unaccompanied youth are in school and they’re seeking to go off to higher education, it’s important for liaisons to inform those students of supports and services that are available to them.

It’s important for them to know that they qualify for independent status as it comes to them completing a FAFSA application. And it’s a very simple process. Liaisons can provide them with the verification letter that just states that they were identified under the McKinney–Vento Act, provide the date for the school year, sign in and send it off to the institution of higher education. And it helps them receive the maximum amount of financial aid that they possibly can when they qualify as an independent student. There’s one other thing. Also we have a link at the bottom for our homeless liaison toolkit. That is another great resource. There’s a lot of forms and a lot of information and a lot of different tools that are very helpful. So if we do have any folks in the webinar today who are new homeless liaisons, that is a resource that will be very helpful for you.

Okay. Thank you, Ian. We can move on. We’ve got one more scenario. Mariyah is a junior in high school. Her family recently lost housing and they doubled up with relatives in a school district that is 20 miles away from Mariyah’s current school. How would you decide whether Mariyah should stay in her school of origin or transfer to the local school? Based off of the things that we know thus far, what’s some information that might help you decide if Mariyah should stay in her school of origin or transfer to the local school? She’s a junior in high school. So 11th grade, or are you saying, what grade she’s going to, that be helpful? Depends on what grade she’s in. Okay. Anything else? How feasible is transportation? How long of a car ride?

Transportation ends up being something that comes up a lot. We’re going to talk more about that when we get into the transportation section, but I will tell you that transportation alone cannot be a reason to decide if a student stays in their school of origin or if they attend the local school. Very good. We’ve got parents requests, permanent living situation. All of this feedback you guys are providing is very good. What’s in her best interests. How long will the family be staying there? Very good. Graduation Time of school year. These are great things. These are all things that liaisons look into when they’re making those determinations about eligibility in school selection. And so again, the request of the youth, the parent and guardian are taken into account.

They do have a voice and they can for voice what their request is, but there are also factors that the liaisons look at. These are great. Okay. Let’s move on Ian. Now let’s talk about disputes. Disputes are when there is disagreement between the school and the parent, the guardian, or the unaccompanied youth about the student’s eligibility, about their enrollment or about the school selection. And so each state has their own specific dispute resolution process. But the requirement is that when there’s a dispute between the school, the parent, the guardian, or the youth, they must be provided with a written explanation of why this student is ineligible for McKinney-Vento services or why they cannot enroll and attend a specific school.

They have to be provided the written decision. That includes, how do you appeal this decision? Their right to appeal. And also it needs to be written in a language they can understand, and in a format that’s clear and easily can be understood. It doesn’t need to be anything confusing long, drawn out, just a clear, concise form that is written that lets them know why the decision was made. And with that appeal process, the liaisons are also responsible for making sure that parents and the youth are aware of what that appeal process looks like. The timeframe for it. Just very clear and concise instructions around the right to appeal. It is that homeless liaison who carries out that dispute resolution process and they are required to carry it out as quickly as possible. Next slide.

During the dispute resolution process, I will tell you all that students do have the right to be immediately enrolled in the school in which they’re requesting. Even if it’s not the correct school or there’s reason why, or there’s reasons why the student may not really be eligible for McKinney–Vento until a decision is reached, until that resolution is resolved, then the students do have the right to be immediately enrolled in the school in which they’re requesting. And they must receive all services that they would be eligible for under McKinney-Vento until a final decision is made. We also have a brief on the dispute resolution process.

And just some things that we encourage our liaisons to do to help them mitigate or avoid disputes, is to make sure they’re being sensitive and respectful. Using trauma informed actions, trauma inform language, making sure they’re calm and explaining things correctly and explaining things with reason. And then also making sure, again, those parents are notified in writing, have that written decision of why McKinney–Vento eligibility was denied and what the steps are to appeal that decision. You don’t want to retraumatize families, you don’t want to retraumatize parents or youth. Many of them have been through so much trauma prior to coming into the school and trying to get their kids into school.

We just really caution our liaisons and our school staff about being very careful and selective with their wording and things that they say and ensuring that they communicate clearly and respectfully with parents and youth, and just really get down to it, find out what they really want and if there’s any way to accomplish this. And if it can’t be accomplished, but then the context of McKinney–Vento, if they’re not eligible for McKinney–Vento, then how can you help them outside of McKinney–Vento as well. Okay. Next slide.

Now let’s talk about transportation. Just like the misconception of school shopping, there’s also a misconception about transportation. Sometimes people think that McKinney–Vento was just designed so they can get a kid on the bus. I’m not saying that this is what parents often think, but sometimes school staff think this. Sometimes school staff see this as a way of getting a student transportation. Under McKinney–Vento, LEAs are required to provide school of origin transportation, but only when it is requested by the parent, by the guardian, by the local liaison on behalf of unaccompanied homeless youth. And so that transportation, if it’s requested it should be available to them through the end of the school year.

Again, when we talked about those kids who might get permanently housed during the middle of the school year, right before the school year ends, they still must be served as homeless students until the end of the year. And they can still be provided transportation to that school of origin if they’ve become permanently housed in a different district. Okay? Transportation must be comparable to what’s provided to other students. If there’s other students who getting on a bus, the bus is coming to pick them up, same things should be provided to other students. Districts are responsible for deciding what mode of transportation that they use. A lot of times we get asked, does the law say they have to be in the bus? Does the law say they have to be in a contracted van service or this, that, or this, that?

The law does not mention those things. Again, those are district decisions that they can make, but a requirement is that the transportation is comparable to what other students are receiving. So mileage, the distance or the time spent being transported, or the expenses for transportation cannot be reasons to deny a student McKinney–Vento eligibility. If it’s in the student’s best interest to remain in the school of origin and the parent or the unaccompanied youth requests that transportation, then the LEA, the local education agency, the school district, they are obligated to provide it and arrange it for students. Okay? Next slide. When it comes to those school districts who are sharing the student, then those districts can split the cost and the responsibility.

And if they cannot come up with an agreement, then they can split the cost 50, 50. So if you’ve got a kid who’s going to school, their school of origin is in one county, but they’re just over the county line in the neighboring county, the more than likely those two school districts will have to coordinate together and figure out a transportation route that works for them. And then if there’s disagreement about how much this district’s going to spend, or that district’s going to spend, then they can simply split the cost of 50, 50. That excess cost of transportation, meaning that excess amount of distance that the school bus might take versus the regular routes that they already use, that excess cost of transportation to the school of origin.

If a school or school district I should say is receiving the McKinney–Vento sub grant, they can use those funds. Title one, Part A funds can be used to cover that. And then some districts are using their American Rescue Plan, their ARP homeless children and youth funds to go for that excess cost of transportation. And this allows students to attend class and participate fully in their school activities. Okay. Next slide. Transportation should be arranged in a timely manner. So that means it should not take a month for a student experiencing homelessness to be assigned to whatever their transportation is. If it’s a bus, if it’s a van, if it’s a taxi, if it’s subway tokens, whatever that mode of transportation is, it should not take a long amount of time to provide that student with transportation.

Because if they’re not in school because of transportation, that’s a barrier. And McKinney–Vento, the goal of it is to remove barriers. If they’re out of school, they’re not attending only because of transportation, that is a true barrier. And so we encourage school districts to set up interim forms of transportation into that more permanent form of transportation can be arranged. And when it comes to transportation, it’s really just best for liaisons to bring everybody to the table. So the liaison, the transportation director, if they’re special education student, those staff members and their form of transportation service. And if it’s multiple school districts involved in that transportation route, then just bringing everybody together.

Some districts do provide parents with a form of reimbursement. If they’re short staffed, if it’s difficult to get a transportation arrangement worked out, if it has to do with how early in the morning or how late in the evening, the child or youth would get home. Districts, some of them do ask parents if they’re willing to transport, if they can. And they devise a parent contract with that parent and offer them reimbursement for the mileage for transporting their children to school. And actually I’m watching our time. So Ian, let’s move past this question slide, and let’s go into school success.

To help children and youth be successful in school, we got to feed them. Right? These are our kids who are often hungry. I don’t know about you guys, but it’s hard for me to concentrate and think and learn if I’m hungry in my stomach is growling. With homeless children and youth, we do know that these are our children and youth who are most likely eligible for free and reduced lunch services. They are categorically eligible for those free meals as long as it’s a school district that is participating in the US Department of Agricultural’s free and reduced lunch program, then they are eligible for those free meals. One of the things that liaison’s most often do is provide their school nutrition director with a list of names of their students and their date of eligibility, and the liaison or the shelter director’s name or whatever that process is.

But again, free and reduced lunch are typically available for our children and youth who are experiencing homelessness. To help them be successful in school, we touched on this a few moments ago or a few slides back, but trauma inform practices are so important, being sensitive to the needs of not just the children and youth, but also their parents. That T word, trauma, comes up again. There’s been so many traumatic experiences that could have happened before the homeless experience. Then you add on the homeless experience to it. And so we just caution all of our education staff and our community partners as well. But you want to use those trauma informed practices when you’re interacting with students and parents.

Another part of school success is ensuring, and these are the liaisons, ensuring that they’re connected to those district level supports that are there. So not just the free meals, but also any kind of academic assistance, tutoring, summer programs, clothing closet, food pantry, and also connecting them to those extracurricular activities. Another piece of school success is ensuring that children and youth are connected to their special education services. So if they have a current IEP, have a 504 Plan, or if these are students who may need to be assessed or tested, just ensuring that they’re connected to those resources.

And then also referring them to community agencies for those additional wraparound services, ensuring that parents, if they need a form for a housing referral, for an agency that’s helping them with housing, ensuring that those things are done. It takes more than just services that can be provided during the school day for children and you to be successful. So ensuring that they need all services that are possibly available to them. That is a great way for liaison, school staff and community partners and community agencies to work together to ensure that children and youth have everything that they need. A requirement for school counselors under the McKinney–Vento Act is working with the homeless children and youth who need full or partial credit for courses that they successfully completed.

Districts are required under the McKinney–Vento Act to have clear procedures in place to award children and youth with full or partial credit for some work that they’ve completed in a previous district. Okay? So awarding credit could be evaluating their mastery of the courses and then awarding the credit accordingly, or providing them with some form of credit recovery, offering them distance learning, or even just a consultation with the prior school to get an evaluation of the work that was completed. Okay. Public preschool is part of the McKinney–Vento Act. When ESSA was reauthorized, that public school wording was added to the school of origin definition. There’s also a requirement to make sure that our young children are being identified and being served.

ESSA has increased an emphasis on identifying these homeless preschool age children. And so a requirement is to make sure that they have access to receiving all the services that they’re eligible for. That starts with those head start and early start programs, the early intervention under IDEA, Part C, as well as any other programs that are administered by a school district or LEA, that preschool children may be available for. Next slide. And so our public preschool programs, again, this is targeting those children who are zero to five. Public preschools includes any publicly funded preschool program that the LEA is the financial or fiscal agent for. Okay? I just wanted to clarify that and we’re going to move on in interest of time.

Okay. Now let’s talk about higher education. We talked a few moments ago about FAFSA, but all homeless children and youth should receive information and individualized counseling regarding their college and career readiness, their school selection, applying for college, paying for college, financial aid and on campus supports. And so that is something that school counselors most often help with. Some school social workers may help with it too, but most often those school counselors help with that. You can move to the next slide, Ian. Under McKinney–Vento, school counselors are charged with assisting all students experiencing homelessness with their college and career preparation.

And so again, those independent student verification forms, the liaison can provide those for students when they’re doing the FAFSA. They also can do subsequent year verifications when they feel like they can make that verification, but FAFSA is making some changes to that, and I believe that is one of the changes that will be coming forward with the 2024 school year I believe. There’s fee waivers that are available. So ensuring that homeless children and youth know about these fee waivers, whether they be through their counselor, most often it is, but there’s AP testing waivers, ACT, SAT and free college week and other waivers that are available to students.

I just wanted to mention briefly, I know that Maryland is not the only state. I believe Pennsylvania has these waivers as well, but I encourage you to check your state resources, whether you’re in the education arena, or if you’re working in the community, there are resources that are out there. They vary by state, but there are resources that are available to support students who are experiencing homelessness. I do know that Maryland does have that unaccompanied homeless youth and foster care tuition waiver. There are other states that also offer this resource as well as some additional resources. Okay. And we’re getting down to the end guys. We are almost done.

Some sources of funding that helps pay for needs that school districts can provide to homeless children and youth. There’s the McKinney–Vento subgrant. That is an application that school districts must complete with their state office of homeless education. It’s a competitive subgrant, and this is supplemental funding that can help them provide services to children and youth experiencing homelessness. Most school districts do have a title one set aside, and we’re all probably familiar with what title one funding is. Title one works hand in hand with McKinney–Vento. There’s a title one set aside that is typically made available to support the homeless education program and LEAs. There’s also the ESSER funding that was made available due to the pandemic, as well as the American Rescue Plan funding that school districts receive that’s available.

Districts and states are coming up with creative ways to use that funding. This is the first time that unprecedented amount of funding has been available. The 800 million debt was designated for the education of homeless children and youth. Then there’s also state and local education funds. There’s all types of local grants, opportunities in such communities, and then community partners and other foundations can offer funding. They might want to sponsor specific program, they may want to do a clothing closet or food pantry or supplies for unaccompanied homeless youth, you name it. And some of you out there are probably doing some of this great work. All right.

Now we’re down to our resources that are available. Again, you guys will be provided with this PowerPoint presentation after today. And so all the links in the PowerPoint are active. The homeless liaison toolkit is a great resource. Our determining eligibility flow chart. There’s also an entire page of resources dedicated to unaccompanied homeless youth, as well as guiding the selection discussion on school selection. And then I believe we’ve got a list or to the links for our webinars and videos. We do have live webinars that we do monthly. If you’re a person who likes to be in a live webinar or training, we have those. Then we also have those self-paced resources. These are our pre-recorded videos and webinars. And you can use link to go into those. We’ve got topics like determining eligibility, school selection, doubled-up, unaccompanied youth, and then also paving the way to college, that higher education webinar.

We also have links to the federal resources. So the full text of the McKinney–Vento Act, the legislative excerpt, which is also in the key terms that have been placed in Padlet for you guys. And then the non-regulatory guidance. These links are also in the key terms list that’s in Padlet. Okay. Again, after today, if you have additional questions, you can contact our helpline at any time. There’s a group of us who do work the helpline. We’ll be available to answer your phone call. And then also there is a helpline email inbox if you would like to send us an email. Okay. That is our content. I’m not sure how much time we have left over for Q&A, but I do think we do have a few minutes for it.

Jessica Grotevant Webster:

Tisha, you are right on track and thank you so much. I think everyone, if they didn’t know already, now understands why we’re so honored and privileged to have you with us here today.

Yatisha Blythe:

Thank you. I appreciate that.

Jessica Grotevant Webster:

I’m going to start, Kailanya and I will take turns asking some questions, but I’m going to start with an easy one that doesn’t take an awful lot of time. And that is, one of our attendees said that they just learned about our training today. We’re so glad you were able to join us at the last minute like that. But you were wondering how you can access the previous session. We did an overview session and we did one specific on LGBTQ plus students and their vulnerabilities. And as soon as that information is set to go, it will be located on our website under the webinar section. The second question that we had though, I think provides a little bit more support and that is, could you expand on information for children who are homeless and coming to us who may be missing their IEP?

We’re being told they’re eligible, but we have no background information on them. What would be the best way for schools to make sure that they are providing that support? Especially if the setting that they were in previously is not available in their new setting? I’m thinking probably students who may have been attending an outside school, not their local school.

Yatisha Blythe:

Special education, there are requirements that are more urgent and more pressing. Not saying that McKinney-Vento is not, but if you know that a student is experiencing homelessness and they do have an IEP, and let’s say it’s time for a reeval, I would say, definitely connect with whoever is in leadership of your special education department. If you’re in a school district, you probably can access who to find easily. If you are a community partner and you’re serving a student, if you’re working with them on tutoring or some other wraparound resource, I’d encourage you to reach out to your district liaison, whomever that person is at the school district. And they should know what avenues you need to take to get you connected to the special education department.

Because when it’s time for those referrals and renewals, there’s a quick timeline. I think it’s like a 90 day timeline and I don’t want to misspeak. I know that’s what it’s like in North Carolina, but that 90 day timeline might be more of a federal thing than just a state specific thing, but I don’t want to overstate. But definitely yes, getting in contact with your liaison if you’re in the community so they can help you navigate folks in the district. And then if you’re in a school system, definitely reaching out to your special education department.

Jessica Grotevant Webster:

Thank you so much for that information.

Kailanya Brailey:

Yes. Our next question, it’s actually two part, but it’s for work with cyber schools. The first part asks, for cyber schools, they do not, or aren’t unable to participate in the national school lunch program, and they’re trying to get creative with this, but participants would love to know if there are other creative ways that they could be working with families to meet this need due to cyber schools non-participation in the national school lunch program. The second part of that question, the participant would love to know how to advocate for change at a more systemic level based upon virtual school options growing all over the country. So an area of advocacy, but also how to help with the school lunch program issue.

Yatisha Blythe:

My suggestion for the school lunch thing is maybe reaching out to one of those community partners who offer it. I’m not sure how it looks in your specific state. I live in North Carolina, so I’m thinking about how we do have some of those community programs that can come in and provide that school lunch, that free school lunch through the US Department of Agriculture. I don’t know the requirements though, but maybe reach out to someone like a community partner and see if that’s something that they’re able to provide. I don’t know if it’s the boys and girls club or which program it is, or maybe start with United Way and they may be able to tell you. What was the second question about advocacy for getting things to change systemic?

Kailanya Brailey:

At the more systemic level as it relates to virtual school options.

Yatisha Blythe:

I’m not really sure about that. Can you read that question again? I want to make sure I’m answering it-

Kailanya Brailey:

Absolutely. It says would love to know how we can advocate for change at a more systemic level based upon virtual school options growing all over the country.

Yatisha Blythe:

That’s probably something that’s decided at school board level in terms of options for in-person learning, virtual learning. If you’re part of a public school, maybe that’s something that you do by advocating with your school board member and seeing if that’s a conversation you can have with them. And that could be something that they’re working on. That sounds like a school board decision versus a school decision. That sounds like a higher administrative. So that may be something that has to go through the superintendent’s office or the school board.

Kailanya Brailey:

Great. Thank you. One last question, the participant says, I wonder more about how the McKinney–Vento Homeless Act impacts preschool children and homelessness as a community schools coordinator at an early childhood center, serving children ages two to five.

Yatisha Blythe:

My brain is still thinking on that last question. And so the person who asks that question, data, data, data. If you’re advocating, you have access to any data that will help your client. The next question you said was on early start preschool kids.

Kailanya Brailey:

Yes. Just wondering more about how the McKinney–Vento Homeless Act impacts preschool children and homelessness. And this is from a community school’s coordinator and an early childhood center serving children ages two to five.

Yatisha Blythe:

Okay. I actually think we have a brief on our web page about that age group, as well as that collaboration between the different programs required to meet the needs of them. But I feel like the earlier you start, the earlier the intervention, the more successful students can be. And so getting them to access early, not only to special education services, but other wraparound services that they need. I know we’ve all heard a lot about trauma. We’ve all heard a lot about ACEs, so I think with getting a handle on those things earlier, of course their early intervention is better, but we do have some more specific resources on our website that can speak to that if you’re looking for some information around that.

We’ve also got some data points in our data page, there’s state profiles with state specific information about all of our homeless children you still have view. If you live in Florida and you’re looking to find out more information, you can click on those state profile links on our page and find out more information.

Kailanya Brailey:

Great. Thank you, Tisha.

Yatisha Blythe:

You’re welcome. Is that the last one?

Kailanya Brailey:

I think that was our final question.

Yatisha Blythe:

All right. Well, thank you so much for your time. I look forward to seeing those of you that join us tomorrow when we talk about our action plans.

Jessica Grotevant Webster:

To that note, just a quick recap that tomorrow we’re going to dive in right away and we will be breaking up into smaller groups and spending some time going through an audit process so that you have an opportunity to look at your own practices and have some time to debrief and come up with some next steps for your programs in order to continuously improve. And so with that, we just want to say, thank you. And we look forward to spending some time again with you tomorrow.

Kailanya Brailey:

Have a wonderful rest of your day.

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