Homeless families stretch Marlborough schools’ resources

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Drone photography shows the new solar panels at Kane Elementary School in Marlborough. The solar panels went live in August.
Kane Elementary School welcomed 11 more homeless students between September to October. Photo/Tami White

MARLBOROUGH – More students – mainly from homeless families being housed in local hotels – are coming to Marlborough Public Schools, and it’s getting harder to accommodate them.

According to Mayor Arthur Vigeant, who chairs the School Committee, there are 142 homeless families (453 individuals) currently housed across three hotels. He said he’s getting frustrated with the information coming from various agencies.

“Every time we get numbers, it’s different,” he said. “It’s a huge issue.”

While he’s not worried about getting funds from the state, Vigeant is concerned about the number of homeless people coming to the city.

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“Right to shelter was not meant for something like this,” he said. “They now show up weekly … this isn’t getting better.”

“Someone had better come up with a solution,” he added.

What the schools are doing

During the School Committee meeting on Oct. 10, Superintendent Mary Murphy reported that 105 more students have been enrolled since the start of the school year.

That brings the overall enrollment to 4,832 students.

Jody O’Brien, the assistant superintendent for student services and equity, reported that the number of students under the McKinney-Vento (homeless) program jumped from 38 as of October 2022 to 144 in October 2023.

From early September to October alone, Kane Elementary accepted 11 more homeless students; Richer Elementary added three more, as did Whitcomb Middle School. 

“Our wrap-around service staff is currently supporting 115 homeless families with students in our schools,” O’Brien told the School Committee. “Given the significant volume of MKV families that they had needed to support, there has been very little time to provide supports and services to other students and families that have been referred.”

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O’Brien plans to present a request for additional staffing – wrap-around service, paraeducators and English language teachers – at a future School Committee meeting.

According to O’Brien, part of the problem is in communicating with the state about how many families are being sent into shelter, and how many students would be enrolling.

“Information that the city receives [from the state] has conflicted with information that the district is receiving,” she said.

She added that some students registered with MPS were already enrolled in other districts, and they were being transported to those districts.

There was also an increase in out-of-district placements, from 46 in 2022 to 54 in 2023. O’Brien said she plans to request funding for these placements in the next fiscal budget.

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