About one in 60 students in Massachusetts are homeless, according to data from the state Department of Education, and Boston has been especially hard hit. Two years ago, Boston schools reported that homeless busing had increased by 50 percent. And the problem extends to the suburbs.
Take the small town of Natick, located 15 miles to the west. Despite increased state funding to increase new housing vouchers, Natick Public Schools continues to see rise the number of homeless students who need transportation services, said Destiny Ashworth, transportation coordinator for the district. Meeting the challenge presented by transporting homeless students is but one objective Ashworth said she has on her agenda for this month’s STN EXPO in Reno, Nevada.
Natick transports approximately 3,100 regular-education students and 200 in special education programs. It’s a relatively small district but the fact that homeless students needing transportation continue to rise and an unknown number needing the service when the school year starts Sept. 2 makes planning difficult.
Additionally, Ashworth said the district’s limited annual transportation operating budget makes attending conferences like the EXPO a hard thing to come by, which she said made her Play2Win grand prize that much more enjoyable.
She was randomly chosen from among the 230 users who registered for the online trivia game that ran from April through mid-June to win an all-expenses-paid trip to the EXPO and $100 cash.
“Natick, like many other districts, is constantly challenged with transporting on a budget, especially the unknown and ever increasing McKinney-Vento (Act) population,” she explained.
This makes the July 26 workshop on transporting homeless and foster children especially timely.
“The conference is so full of educational tips and points to take home and incorporate into your own transportation program,” she said, adding that she’s also looking forward to a workshop the following day on understanding and managing traffic patterns and parking at school sites.