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Preston students face homelessness

KINGWOOD — More than 100 Preston County students qualified as homeless last year under the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

But while 118 students were identified as homeless, the true number is probably much larger, Stormy Matlick told the Preston County Board of Education Monday.

“That’s a huge number,” Board Member Robert “Mac” McCrum said of the number.

Matlick works with homeless students for the county.

“It’s so different than Mon County,” she noted. “Mon County you can go to Bartlett House and count numbers. Here you would have to go knock door to door.”

Federally the definition of homelessness is being in a shelter or living on the street, she said. But McKinney-Vento said “doubling up,” such as families moving in with other families, is homelessness. Many times this is adult children and their children moving in with grandparents.

At any given time, the hosts might kick out the other family, Matlick noted. She dealt with that situation near the end of the school year in Kingwood, when a counselor found the family was ousted and had to move into their car.

Families can be reluctant to seek help because they fear Child Protective Services will get involved, she said.

Matlick said she speaks with teachers at the beginning of the year and gets many referrals from the backpack program. This fall she hopes to make further inroads into identifying homeless students by meeting regularly with school counselors.

“Because with over 4,000 students in the schools, more than 118,” are impacted, she said.

Also at the meeting:

— About 250 letters were sent to parents of students who may be attending school in a different attendance zone than that outlined in a new attendance zone policy, Assistant Superintendent Brad Martin said. Martin said about 150 requests were sent by parents to stay at the current school.

— About 80 responses were mailed out, Martin said. Figures on class sizes at each school should be available at the next board meeting.

— Martin said custodial contracts have been changed as requested by the board. Changes in the length of contracts were done by attrition, he said. Contracts were let for summer custodial work and an additional three evening custodians were hired so the system’s largest campuses have two custodians working per night.

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