Supt. Gene Harthan told the Swanville School Board at Wednesday’s meeting that the school had been “dinged” by the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) for not having identified any volunteers for the last four years when it came to identifying students who are homeless.

    Harthan said the district was notified, Aug. 31, that it was non-compliant in the areas of awareness, public notice and identification process. As a result, the district completed a corrective action plan regarding activities required by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the McKinney Vento Homeless Education Act.

    The Swanville School District was directed by MDE to provide corrective action in three areas. The first area was to have the homeless liaison and at least one LEA administration participate in at least one training session. Harthan attended the required training, “Identification of Students Who Become Homeless,” Oct. 25 and Social Worker Kari Prokott attended the same training, Nov. 3. Prokott has also been designated as the district homeless liaison, a position Harthan had previously been assigned to.  

    The second area the district needed to address was to submit a corrective action plan or evidence of correcting all noncompliance by Nov. 15. As school staff must assist homeless liaisons to identify homeless students, the letter that was sent to the district from MDE was also redistributed to the staff.

    Additional training on the duties of the homeless liaison will also be provided to all staff on Nov. 24. Some of the duties of the homeless liaison includes identifying any student experiencing homelessness through coordination with school staff and community organizations; post a public notice readily visible to families and youth with the McKinney-Vento definition of homelessness and educational rights; provide professional development about homelessness and the McKinney-Vento law to school staff and community organizations; immediate enrollment and full and equal opportunity to succeed in school for identified students; provide assistance accessing transportation, including to the school of origin; and access to appropriate educational services for identified students, including Head Start and district preschool programs.

    The homeless liaison will also be trained on making referrals to appropriate external resources, including health, dental, mental health, housing, substance abuse and other appropriate services; information about educational and related opportunities for parents and guardians with meaningful opportunities for mediation of enrollment disputes; satisfaction of special provisions for unaccompanied youth, including receiving full or partial credit and information/verification of independent students status for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

    Harthan said staff will also be trained on what the McKinney-Vento Act is, the definition of homelessness; what the education rights and related services are to which eligible students are entitled to; the duties of the McKinney-Vento homeless liaison; what the indicators are of possible homelessness; what the referral process is; and the privacy rights that students and families have.  

    “This training will be provided to staff annually,” Harthan said.

    When it comes to complying with the public notice area, Harthan said informational posters from the National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE) were posted in English and Spanish on the bulletin board by the high school library in the school where other information is posted for staff and students, Oct. 8.

    Those posters were also posted on the bulletin board in the Swanville Post Office, as well as on the school district’s website, Nov. 3. The information will be included in the district’s newsletter, which will be published Nov. 30.

    Harthan said the district adapted the Blueprint for Homeless Services Flow Chart and assigned persons to each of the duties as part of the required identification process as to who handles what.

    The district also developed a form for identification of homeless individuals and will add the question on the student registration card about whether or not the student’s current address is temporary or permanent. In the fall, every family completes a registration card for each student who is enrolled in the district.

    The definition of homeless children and youth includes those who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or similar reason; are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks or camping grounds due to the lack of alternative adequate accommodations; are living in emergency or transitional shelters; or are abandoned in hospitals.

    Also included in the definition are children and youths who have a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings; who are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, in substandard housing, bus or train stations or similar setting. Migratory children are also qualified within the clause.

    Students who qualify as homeless children and youths must be identified and served. The role of each district or charter school’s homeless liaison is to ensure that procedures are in place, monitor student progress and support any student meeting the definition.

    Harthan said that qualifying under the definition of homeless children and youth is not considered to be maltreatment under Minnesota law.


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