School District Compensates For Chaos Of Families

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Granted, it’s the day after Thanksgiving.

Maybe it’s time to go back to taking everybody for granted.

But then we started thinking about the implications of today’s front-page story about the Payson Unified School District’s effort to cope with the trauma and chaos a rising number of students must deal with every day when they head home from school.

Officially, some 320 students in the district qualify as “homeless,” which generally means they’re not living in a separate household with their own parents. Most live with a parent who has to double up with other families — sometimes two, three or four families jammed in under one roof.

The number of students living in these crowded, jumbled, improvised homes has risen dramatically as a result of the recession.

Officially, that means about 12 percent of the district’s 2,700 students meet the federal definition of “homeless.” Of course, we suspect many more students would qualify if their parents reported their living situations to the school.

The district gets some $66,000 in federal funds to provide extra support for kids dealing with such distracting, potentially traumatizing living arrangements. That’s not much — enough to hire a homeless coordinator and provide some minimal support.

But the real message here lies in the reminder that the hard-pressed teachers in every school in the district must on a daily basis compensate for what’s going on at home for all too many of their students.

The recession has only added to the strain on so many families, sundered by drug use, unemployment, divorce and the sometimes dismaying ease with which parents wander in and out of relationships without regard to the impact on their children. Study after study has documented how hard most children have to struggle to concentrate, grow and learn in the face of family chaos.

So we thought it worth making note: When everything falls apart for kids, teachers often become the only ones around to help pick up the pieces.

And that’s why we wanted to write at least one more Thanksgiving editorial — for all those teachers who do their jobs with such love and devotion, no matter what those kids face after the school bell rings.

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