Central Texas school districts adjusting to serve homeless - KXXV-TV News Channel 25 - Central Texas News and Weather for Waco, Temple, Killeen |

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Central Texas school districts adjusting to serve homeless students

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Waco ISD has more than 15-hundred students who are designated as homeless. The district has a grant funded department dedicated to helping remove any barriers that may keep these students from attending school.

Kathy Wigtail, Case Manager for Waco ISD Homeless Outreach Services says, "Homeless isn't always what you think in terms of people on the streets, mostly families are doubled up, living with other families due to economic hardships."

A homeless student is defined as a student who lives in a shelter, motel or hotel. In a house or an apartment with more than one family because of economic hardship or loss, in an abandoned building or a car, at a camp ground, or on the street. In temporary foster care or with an adult who is not your parent or legal guardian. in substandard housing or with friends or family because of being a runaway or unaccompanied youth.

Being homeless can often be an unstable environment that makes it more difficult to get to classes each day. Still, 92 percent of those homeless students do make it to school each day, compared to 95 percent overall.

And that's important because districts get government funding based on daily attendance. Sandy Farris of Bryan ISD says, "Attendance rates for the homeless students typically is a little bit lower than what it is for rest of the student body."

In Waco, the homeless student population makes up about ten percent of the student body, a high number that's tied in with poverty numbers. Since Waco's poverty level is above the national average.

The Wigtail, thinks Waco's size also may have something to do with it. "I also think families that are in need are going to come from some of the smaller communities to a city like Waco where the services are available to them. So that may be it as well, but we do see families sometime moving into the Waco area, who are in need "

By law, the district has to do all it can to help students. The law was put in place to help homeless students, and is called the McKinney Vento Act, and it was put in place as part of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Wigtail says, "The student ends up moving out of that school's attendance zone, then we will send a bus to take that student back and fourth."

She also wanted people to know about the effort that is being made with limited resources. "I think we do a lot for the students in this district with a small staff and small resources. I think that the students in this district are being served very well."

Farris also wanted people to be aware that this is happening more than people know. "I think it's important for people to know that every school district is effected by this, some more than others."

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