San Elizario ISD Helping McKinney-Vento Students Succeed
SAN ELIZARIO, TEXAS – The San Elizario Independent School District (SEISD) has fifty-eight McKinney-Vento students in attendance throughout six campuses in the district. What is the McKinney-Vento Assistance Act? The McKinney-Vento Assistance Act is a federal law created to support the enrollment and education of homeless students. McKinney-Vento provides homeless students the same educational opportunities as housed students by removing barriers.
Over the past decade, homeless children have more than doubled. Unfortunately, many go unaccounted for because their families move frequently, try to live invisibly, and avoid authorities for fear of losing custody of their children. Information received from Melissa Urenda, the Public Education Information Management System (PEIMS) Coordinator for SEISD, homeless students are identified more specifically based on one of the four living arrangements. A student identified as doubled up means the student is living with another family. A student identified as unsheltered is due to the student's nighttime residence, whether public or private such as on the street, a car or park or any substandard living condition. Identified homeless students also live in motels or hotels. The final identification for homeless students is those who live in a shelter.
As hundreds of homeless children go in and out of public schools, the SEISD is strategic in serving McKinney Vento students so they succeed. The SEISD assists the McKinney Vento population by funding two social workers for campuses in the district. Teresita Parra and Sylvia Graves are the District Social Workers. The social worker liaisons promptly assess the community's needs, provide supportive guidance, and monitor students' progress. The social workers provide referrals for medical, housing, and other appropriate services. In addition, social workers ensure students experiencing homelessness enroll immediately and provide equitable access to school success.
Social Worker Parra states, "The saying "it takes a village" is a commitment to assure that the entire district supports students identified as homeless." With the assistance of the district social workers, the SEISD services McKinney Vento students from the elementary level as early as pre-k through the secondary level up to the twelfth grade. The Ann M. Garcia Enriquez Middle School has the highest number of identified McKinney Vento students, particularly at the seventh-grade level. District Social Worker Parra states, "During the intake assessment, we found that these particular students needed school supplies, hygiene products, and uniforms." The unstable living conditions of McKinney Vento students impact everyone in the family. That impact is felt especially among siblings. Social Worker Parra adds, "Parents have a hard time purchasing these items due to job loss or buying too many items for several students in the family." As a result, families in this complicated living situation make difficult decisions on food, shelter, and school supplies.
As the district started implementing new plans, students started graduating, and post-secondary education became an obtainable goal, but students experienced additional challenges with the onset of the pandemic. Data obtained from PEIMS Coordinator Urenda indicates that from 2019 to 2020, SEISD graduation rates for homeless students declined from 100% to 83.3%. The pandemic impacted the decline in the homeless students graduating, but the difficulty of their living status was also a factor. Social Worker Parra states, "We found it hard to locate families. Many families moved to other areas in El Paso and were untraceable.
During the second year of the pandemic, the SEISD returned to a 100% graduation rate among homeless students. Students saw that they could achieve any goal and dream despite their difficulties, the pandemic included. Social worker Parra attributes the success rate increases to " we brought students back; it was difficult to identify students' needs at home."