Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Portland's Community Transitional School

I consider myself to be fairly well-informed when it comes to homelessness and hunger. It's a topic that I spend a lot of time reading up on and discussing with other folks. However, I came across a service that even I had never heard of when I went to the Project Homelessness Connect at Memorial Coliseum. The Community Transitional School, over on SE Belmont. It's a private school that serves children of families that are in transition, meaning homeless children (whether they are in shelters, staying on a friend's floor, barely int/about to lose housing. etc.). I checked out their website and I am amazed at what they offer. Things like transportation, two meals a day, supplies, clothing, field trips, food boxes...all for free. I was really impressed with the transportation. Here is how the school describes their system philosophy:

One challenge faced by homeless students is their inability to get to and from school each day. Bus services to neighborhood schools are not designed to handle the students' last-minute route changes due to frequent and sudden moves between shelters, cheap motels, friends' homes and even the family car. Even with free Tri-Met passes, public transportation can be a confusing prospect for children trying to get to school from so many different locations.

One challenge faced by homeless students is their inability to get to and from school each day. Bus services to neighborhood schools are not designed to handle the students' last-minute route changes due to frequent and sudden moves between shelters, cheap motels, friends' homes and even the family car. Even with free Tri-Met passes, public transportation can be a confusing prospect for children trying to get to school from so many different locations.

In response, we designed a transportation program to accommodate our students' complicated living circumstances. We make every effort to stay in contact with their families as they move around Portland. Many times the children themselves will call us with updates. We restructure our bus routes each day to keep pace with their families' mobility. Fifty-two percent of our students move at least once per school year. Over the past two years, one group of three siblings has moved 29 times. The oldest sibling makes the calls to tell us where they were staying. Our transportation program serves 60-70 children per day. As a result of this approach, our attendance rate hit an all-time high at 86 percent in 2005-06. This rate has steadily increased for the past three school years. Without this flexible program, the majority of our students would simply miss school.

Amazing. No judgements, no excuses, no strict rules of who is responsible for a child being in school. The children need to get to school and the school gets them there.

They don't skimp on quality in the classroom, either:

The foundation of our school is its strong academic program coupled with an emphasis on building student character. Most of our students come to us with gaps in their education. Our classroom goal is to ensure that these children are given the encouragement and tools to raise their social and academic level to that of children with stable homes who attend public schools. We have a kindergarten through 1st grade class, a 2nd through 5th grade class and a 5th through 8th grade class. All are taught by state-certified teachers, and with the help of two instructional assistants. In addition, Title I and special education services are provided on-site by Portland Public Schools. Many of our longtime classroom volunteers are retired teachers. Along with focusing on the "Three Rs," our curriculum weaves important character education lessons into every school day.

They even have the Multnomah County Mobile Medical Van come to the school twice a week for routine health check ups.

You can check out the rest, including ways to help them on their website. Someone told me yesterday that they think that the school is a part of Metropolitan Family Services (another great organization), but I don't see that on the site.

I was just really impressed.
And here is the rest of it.

4 comments:

Trouble said...

That's great! we could use more schools like that one in every stste. If communities worked together, it shouldn't be hard to fund such places. that's truly awesome!

Diane J Standiford said...

It always strikes me, how seldom GETTING a person or senior or child to a place is given little thought. Go Portland!

Phil said...

An obvious case of a group getting truly organized, and then thinking before it acts. Were there but more of them . . ..

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