Bay County Registers Homeless School Students

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PANAMA CITY -- School choice began today. It's the process where students select their child's school, including out of zone requests. School district officials are also trying to get a handle on the number of homeless students registering.

They believe the new on-line registration may have affected this year's count.

In 2012-2013, Bay County had 1,068 homeless students registered for school. This fall that number dropped to 735. And that's raised some red flags.

Bay Co. Liaison Kay Daniel said, "The first thing the federal law requires of us is that we identify children in unstable or temporary housing situations and so the state looks at our numbers and the state knows we're down."
This fall the school district went to on-line registration, which might explain the decrease in homeless students. So the district is sending out a flyer to all students, hoping to reach the parents or guardians of homeless kids. It explains who qualifies as a homeless student and how they can make sure their child is properly counted.

There are some advantages to making sure your child is properly registered.

Ashley Wilhite is a senior at Bay High School and currently living with friends. She's not afraid to ask for help.
"I'm very shy, very embarrassed by a lot of things. But it's something you have to do,” said Wilhite.

Ashley has received assistance through school programs and homeless liaisons.

"You never know what’s gonna happen, like, if you need a place to stay you should tell somebody. Just don't hold it off because you can end up not having a place,” she said.

If you know someone caring for school aged children, in a temporary living situation, who may need assistance, contact a liaison for Bay County School district.

Earnestine Gainer-Clements, social worker 850-747-5381
Carolyn Deal 850-872-4647