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Association of California School Administrators

Report highlights COEs’ outreach to homeless students during pandemic

April 26, 2021
One county office of education conducted multidisciplinary team visits to meet homeless students literally where they were — motels, shelters and parking lots. Another COE created charging stations at district offices and food distribution sites so students living in cars would have a place to power up their laptops.
These are just two of the many supports offered to students experiencing homelessness in the Bay Area during the COVID-19 pandemic. These and other efforts are chronicled in a new report released earlier this year by the County Superintendents’ Bay Area Geographic Leads Consortium in partnership with WestEd.
“Addressing the Needs of Students Experiencing Homelessness During the COVID-19 Pandemic” features promising strategies and supports schools put into place to address these needs in five Bay Area counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Solano.
The report was commissioned by the Alameda County Office of Education in its work as a Geographic Lead Agency (Geo Lead) in California’s System of Support.
“Students experiencing homelessness have been among those most acutely affected by the closure of schools to in-person learning and services,” said Alameda County Superintendent of Schools L. K. Monroe. “The primary focus of our Geographic Lead work has been to uplift, in the service of equity, how counties can work together across our region to better serve students most in need during this difficult time.”
The Bay Area Consortium’s five county offices of education convened monthly during the pandemic to better understand regional challenges related to homelessness and investigate current county and district strategies to combat the unique barriers facing students experiencing homelessness. This was a pivot and expansion from the previous work of the Consortium, which focused on sharing approaches for improving outcomes for students experiencing homelessness with an emphasis on reducing chronic absenteeism.
“Students experiencing homelessness live in communities with different resources and challenges. Even before the pandemic, student homelessness was increasing, and many schools were working to respond to the needs of our most vulnerable students,” said Solano County Superintendent of Schools Lisette Estrella-Henderson. “We are proud to contribute to the body of this critically needed work and to strategize and collaborate with our partners from throughout the Bay Area to identify best practices, always with an equity lens, to better serve our young people.”
The report highlights promising practices implemented by each Bay Area county to support students experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic, drawn from the expertise and perspective of 20 county administrators.
All counties noted that with many schools closed to in-person learning, staff at the district and school levels sought out creative approaches for identifying, reaching and serving students experiencing homelessness. Increasing mental health supports, food and technology distribution with local districts, and the creation of online modules for teachers and staff to build capacity to support students experiencing homelessness during distance learning are among the effective responses identified to address this challenge.
The report offers steps and strategies to address the needs of the region’s most vulnerable students. By working collaboratively across counties in the region to share, analyze and replicate these promising practices, the Bay Area Geographic Lead Consortium is providing much-needed support to students and families experiencing homelessness, and ultimately to improve academic and social-emotional outcomes for its students.
FYI
Read the full report on ACSA's Resource Hub.
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