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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Homeless in school: The numbers keep rising



We told you this weekend about the rising number of homeless students in Pasco County schools. Unfortunately, it's not a problem that's limited to Pasco County.

A fresh report from the Florida Department of Education shows that the number of homeless students across the state rose 20 percent in 2008-09 from the previous year, from 34,376 to 41,286. In the Tampa area, the numbers broke out like this:

Hernando: 156 in '07-'08; 207 in '08-'09
Hillsborough: 2,073 in '07-'08; 2,054 in '08-'09
Pasco: 1,599 in '07-'08; 1,815 in '08-'09
Pinellas: 962 in '07-'08; 1,870 in '08-'09

And they're not all the people you'd expect to see seeking shelter and food stamps.

Consider Mary, a Pasco County mom who was able to stay at home with her two toddlers while her daughter attended second grade and her husband worked. Over the summer, her husband got sick, and right before her daughter was supposed to begin the third grade, the family lost their home.

Third grade is the first year kids take the FCAT exam, and they’re held back if they don’t pass. Not the best time to make a school change, particularly not when everything else in a child’s life is in flux. 

“We didn’t want to switch her school. ... She loves her school. She loves her teacher,” Mary said. “We talked to the principal about getting a bus set up.”

And now the girl rides the school bus about an hour from the shelter where the mom and kids live -- dad's not allowed -- to school and back again. Teachers and others at the school offer extra help, such as food and clothing. “We’re not the kind of people who like to take advantage,” Mary said. But they take what they need while they try to find their way back to self-sufficiency.

Please also take the time to check out this moving slide show of Emory Salter, an 18-year-old Mitchell High special education student who's been living on the streets since this summer. He's not perfect, and doesn't claim to be, but his life is one that depends on the kindness of others as he, too, looks for a home and a job.


Hear Emory Salter talk about his situation in this audio slideshow.

Jeff Solochek, Times Staff Writer


[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:37am]


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