SC educators look to help state’s thousands of homeless students during pandemic

State - Regional

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTW) – State leaders are trying to help out the thousands of homeless students across South Carolina.

The state estimates about 12,600 children in public schools do not have homes and educators are trying to make sure they don’t lose out on their classes during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Most children go to school to learn, but those 12,600 students, they truly walk in that school door to be loved, to feel they belong,” said Rep. Raye Felder, R-York.

At a state House COVID-19 Public Education Committee meeting Wednesday, state education superintendent Molly Spearman talked about how districts are trying to locate the roughly 4,216 students not contacted since mid-March, especially those who are homeless.

“One person shared with me they actually went out to the address and the home, which was a camper, was no longer there,” said superintendent Spearman.

Rep. Terry Alexander, D-Florence, says it’s especially an issue in Florence County.

“I know, particularly in (Florence 1 Schools), we have about 400-500 homeless kids,” he said.

Superintendent Spearman says since where a homeless student is staying can change, a federal law called the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act ensures those students get an education wherever they want.

“(If) they are homeless and maybe are in residence in Darlington County, if they choose to go back to South Florence (High School), we transport them,” she said.

The superintendent also called Mar. 16 until the end of last school year as “emergency learning” because of all the difficulties switching to virtual classes. That led to less of an emphasis placed on attendance.

Superintendent Spearman says it’s especially important for districts to know where every student is, no matter what class option is chosen to start the fall semester.

“Attendance will be taken every day, contact will be made and we will be back to a more normal routine,” said superintendent Spearman.

As of Tuesday, the education department also says 538 students still haven’t been accounted for in our part of the state.

About 36.8% of them are in Horry County (198 students) and about 25.7% of them are in Darlington County (138 students).

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