Homeless count down in schools

By Lucas Lord

During the Harrisonville School Board meeting on Feb. 15, Assistant Superintendent Jason Eggers gave a presentation on homelessness within the community. In recent years, about 110 homeless students have attended schools in Harrisonville. However, this year the school district is only aware of the status of 50 such students.

“Where are these students, what is potentially happening to them,” Eggers said. “Our (homeless student) population is down (from where it should be). We have 50 homeless students in our district this school year. We’re not sure why these populations are down. They are down in the surrounding areas as well, which is kind of a concern.”

According to Eggers, during the pandemic many social assistance programs were created to help assist struggling families. However, when those programs ended, many families vanished from the school district’s radar.

“Through the COVID timeframe, we had various rental assistance programs and all other kinds of things going on to help stabilize our families,” Eggers said. “That was good, but we will see what happens to those trends as we continue.”

According to Eggers, the majority of homeless students are “doubled up” or living with a member of their family other than their parents or guardian. The district has 43 such students as well as three that are living in shelters and one that is living in a motel.

“A lot of these students are fluctuating and moving in and out of the school system,” Eggers said. “This makes it incredibly difficult to make sure they are getting that necessary education. We are slowly losing track of our ability to track where a
student goes.”

In his report to the school board, Eggers mentioned that 25 of the 50 unaccompanied youth at the high school level have withdrawn from classes in the last year.

“These are students that for whatever reason are homeless, or are not with their guardians or parents,” he said. “They are couch hopping and doing whatever they need to do to survive. Our levels of homelessness in the district are relatively high and not just among high school students.”

In other news, Superintendent Paul Mensching talked about several pieces of legislation Sedalia-based Missouri Rep. Brad Pollitt has recently promoted.

“One piece of legislation is a parents bill of rights that contains language referring to the use of body cameras on teachers,” Mensching said. “I have many concerns about this violating federal special education laws or FERPA laws. It certainly violates the basics of good instruction. Another part of that legislation includes mandating teachers post individual lesson plans online a month ahead of time. This is a concern. Good teachers alter their instruction based on if the kids understand the lesson or not. It isn’t just in Missouri, there are bad pieces of legislation like this being introduced in states across the nation. It’s something to be aware of.”