The Paducah Independent and McCracken County school districts will share a grant to help homeless students with non-academic issues that prevent them through the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.
The three-year $392,595 competitive federal grant was divided among the districts. Paducah schools will get $54,353 per year of the grant, while McCracken County will get $76,511 that will go toward hiring personnel to work with homeless students in its district.
The U.S. Department of Education defines homeless children as having no fixed, regular, adequate nighttime residence, and includes children who are:
• Sharing the housing of other people due to loss of housing or economic hardship.
• Living in hotels, motels, trailer parks or campgrounds due to the lack of alternative adequate accommodations.
• Living in emergency or transitional shelters.
• Abandoned in hospitals or awaiting foster care placement.
• Living at a primary nighttime residence that is not ordinarily used as a sleeping accommodation for people.
• Living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned building, substandard housing, bus or train stations.
Students are identified as homeless when they register at the schools.
Throughout the school year, teachers and staff help homeless student coordinators when they hear or see something about students that makes it appear they may be homeless or have home issues.
Heather Anderson, the McKinney-Vento liaison for the Paducah school district, said the district’s funding will be spent “based on individual needs.”
Anderson said one of the main things Paducah schools would use the grant funding for would be to extend after-school programming for homeless students.
“After-school programming is going to be really crucial, especially after and during pandemic learning loss,” she said.
Other uses include family engagement, well-being, reconnection with school, more support for the students and an administrative assistant for that department.
“When a student comes into our district and is identified (as being homeless), we figure out: Do they need shoes? Do they need clothing? What are these non-academic barriers to get into school?” she said. “So, we work very closely with the Family Resource Centers (at each school) and school staff to make sure the students are getting what they need.”
Anderson said the Paducah school system has not gotten the grant in the last three years, making her rely on the community for help.
The Paducah Fire Department’s “Stuff the Truck” event helped as well, with school supplies coming to Anderson’s homeless student resource room.
With this grant, that teamwork extends to the McCracken County School District.
“I am so excited that we get to work with McCracken,” she said. “I’m so happy that we get to do that. With both districts together, we’re going to be able to serve more students.”
Genevieve Postlethwait, the grant writer for the McCracken County School District, said a large part of the grant would go toward hiring someone to oversee the homeless student program.
“Our mission is to forge a city-county partnership to better serve and support students and families experiencing homelessness,” she wrote in an email response. “The city has resources the county doesn’t, like a full-time liaison, and the county has resources the city doesn’t, like free before- and after-school tutoring, enrichment & family activities.
“We designed our project to bridge the service gaps of both districts, and encourage collaboration and sharing of resources between the two. Our primary activities will be to (1) hire a full-time liaison in the county and part-time administrative assistant in the city, and (2) improve access to material and experiential resources, all toward the end/outcome of better identifying, supporting, and advocating for local students experiencing homelessness.”
Those wanting to make contributions to help homeless students should contact the school district office.
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