By Angelaydet Rocha
December 26, 2020 —
Thirty-five percent of students enrolled in The North Monterey County Unified School District (NMCUSD) are homeless or foster students, according to district officials.
These students are living in conditions with financial constraints including living with multiple families in similar financial situations, living in motels, campers, cars, or in shelters.
“We see a very large percentage of our families doubled up, renting rooms or even renting converted garages with multiple families,” said Noemy Loveless, NMCUSD Assistant Superintendent for Student and Family Services.
On top of that, many of these students face the difficulty of finding transportation.
“Our chronicle absentee data said that many of our students had difficulty getting to school and getting to school in North Monterey County,” NMCUSD Superintendent Kari Yeater said. “They don’t just walk to school normally, they come from 70 square miles.”
Despite these challenges, students are graduating at a much higher rate than housed students in the county.
District staff believes they know why.
“The district is working at a state level and at a local level to be a part of the solution. We want to make sure that our kids in our community, not just now but in the next several years, have what they need to graduate, to go to college, to get a career,” Yeater said. “That they can come back into the Monterey area and work. That’s our goal.”
Multi-tiered System of Supports (MTSS)
The district identified challenges and ways to support the families using a multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS).
From infancy to adulthood, staff is there for students.
“We don’t just send our families somewhere, we actually handhold and support our families through the process,” Yeater said.
The MTSS team supports through virtual meetings, individual plans, home visits, providing meals and extra support for those students who need it. There are different teams in each school, all focused on different students from early years, middle years to college readiness, and adulthood.
A report from the Center for the Transformation of Schools at UCLA, “State of Crisis: Dismantling Student Homelessness in California,” found NMCUSD had a higher homelessness enrollment percentage of students compared to cities like Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Diego.
Even though these students are facing many challenges they are thriving educationally, with a 91% graduation rate compared to an 88% graduation rate from housed students.
“We graduate a very, very large percentage of our students compared to the county and the state. It’s because of these individual plans and supports we’re providing along the way and we’re lucky to coordinate within the families,” Yeater said. “Many families have children in multiple schools so our administrative team and counselors will call each other and discuss what we need to do for that family.”
Why it works
The MTSS system starts identifying students early, with an infant-toddler program operating year-round. Even with COVID-19 and the shut down in March, the program opened back up just two weeks after.
“Our approach to the cradle to career is we wrap our hands around the whole family at prenatal all the way to college and career, through all the stages of life,” Loveless said. “It’s the child and the whole family at the earliest stage… that’s what really makes a big impact on the work that we do.”
Another key component of the system is partnerships with nonprofits and organizations.
The Castro Plaza Child and Family Resource Center provide referrals, useful information to resources for students and families but also transportation, clothing and school supplies.
Students and families are also able to access the Family Center located at the Castroville Elementary School, sponsored by a grant through United Way.
The old office space was revamped and now provides a full bath, a shower, washer and dryer and a refrigerator for families who need these amenities.
“Our whole school structure is set up on referrals for immediate support, either the teacher, the counselor,” Yeater said. “There’s a school team that meets every week on campus. Anyone that needs immediate support, there’s a direct district referral to the family resource center and to our social worker, our mental health counselor, our school psychologist.”
This article courtesy of The Salinas Californian
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