School Business Affairs January 2021

18 JANUARY 2021 | SCHOOL BUSINESS AFFAIRS HOT TOPICS IN EDUCATION Supporting Homeless Students During the Pandemic A look at how the pandemic has affected homeless and other vulnerable students—and what districts can do. By Casey L. Gordon T his new year already feels a little like deja vu. It was a Thursday in March 2020 when Michigan citizens watched an afternoon press conference assuring families that schools would stay open amidst the pandemic, followed by another late in the evening that announced our schools were closed for what would ultimately become the remainder of the year. No one slept well that Thursday night, and at 7a.m. Friday I was on an emergency response phone call arranging for our students who live in shelters to receive school meals. Now here we are, almost a year later, still taking each day as it comes as we work to meet our students’ educational, physical, and socioeconomic needs during a public health crisis. Protecting Our Vulnerable Students In 2017–2018, 1.5 million children and youth expe- rienced homelessness, according to the Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness. These students are especially vulnerable during the pandemic. Family shelters that provide congregate sleeping and meal spaces have had to reduce capacity to meet health guidelines. Consequently, they must quickly secure hotel rooms to make up for lost space. They also need to apply for emergency funding to cover their increased COURTESY OF KENT INTERMEDIATE SCHOOL DISTRICT, GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN