ROGUE RIVER — School Board members voted Thursday to create a permanent, part-time position to ensure homeless students receive the assistance they need to be as successful as other students.
Christian Olsen, a teacher and special programs supervisor for the district, said the number of homeless youths was significant enough to warrant more than a liaison or volunteer to meet their needs.
"In the past, I don't think we've served them as well as we could have, so we're just trying to get a handle on the position," Olsen said.
Olsen serves as the liaison for the district's talented and gifted program, special education, English Language Learner program and homeless students.
"Since I am a part-time employee in our district office, I don't have enough time to get out and identify these kids and connect them with the services we have available," Olsen said.
"We don't necessarily have an increasing number, but I have a sense we haven't identified all the kids that are out there."
Olsen said the district had identified 83 homeless students out of about 1,000.
The new position will be funded through federal stimulus dollars and the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.
The McKinney-Vento Act is a federal mandate to remove some of the obstacles that prevent homeless students from attending school and requires school districts to provide immediate enrollment, transportation, school meals and a homeless liaison to help connect those students and their families with social services.
Grants often are provided to help already cash-strapped school districts comply with the law.
In 2009, McKinney-Vento funds were bolstered by about $70 million in federal stimulus dollars, of which Oregon received more than $1 million.
Mary Ferrell, director of the Maslow Project, a Medford outreach center for homeless youths, said the Rogue Valley ranks second only to Portland in the state for the number of homeless students per capita.
The new position in Rogue River schools follows similar positions added in Medford and Eagle Point.
For more information on homeless youths, see www.maslowproject.com.
Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at email@example.com.