75 Homeless Students in the Fulton School District Brings Concern that Money for Their Program Could End

There are more homeless teenagers in the Fulton City School District than you might think there are.

Administrator Geri Geitner recently told the Board of Education that 75 students qualify as homeless at the moment.

Most are in the elementary grades, but the number is fairly evenly spread among all grades.

“If you tell people we have (75) homeless children, they’d wonder where they are,” said Mike Egan, interim executive director of instruction and assessment.

Very few are sleeping in cars or on couches in friends’ homes, said Geitner, who explained that the federal government’s definition of homelessness is broad.  It applies to any student who lacks a nighttime residence that is pernament, regular and adequate.

Under that definition, a student living with his family in a motel or a campground is considered homeless.  A child awaiting foster home placement is homeless.  A student living with another family is homeless.

The distinction is important.  Federal law requires the district to find out where each student lives.  Those students who are considered homeless under the federal definition are entitled to extra help.  They can choose to attend the school they came from or the school in the district in which they’re living now; they can receive transportation to school within a 50 mile radius; they receive free breakfast and lunch.

Almost all of the students who are considered homeless in the Fulton school district come from the Fulton district.  Seven students are receiving daily transportation to schools in Oswego, Hannibal, Cicero or Clay because they’ve chosen to attend the school from which they came.

The district has won state grants for homeless services because “we are able to demonstrate that we are good at identifying students and that our follow-through is solid,” said Geitner.

The grant money has paid for a specialist in dealing with runaway and homeless students, through Oswego County Opportunities.  It has also helped to provide more tutoring for those students.  “I hope the funding stays,” said Geitner.

“Keeping school consistent for these kids has been a trenendous benefit for these kids,” said Superintendent of Schools Bill Lynch.

(See the PowerPoint presentation given to the Board of Education about homeless students, below.)