Bedford Schools Benefit From Hosting Students From Homeless Families

Superintendent Sills said he believes Bedford students benefit from being part of a diverse student body.

On Monday, we reported a state program placing 20 homeless families in the Bedford Plaza Hotel and school-aged children from these families in Bedford schools could be coming to an end.

While the program is expected to end statewide by June 2014, Bedford residents are not unaccustomed to having students from outside the community attend their schools. 

Bedford also participates in programs that place high school students from Hanscom Air Force Base in Bedford High School and the METCO program which sees students from Boston attend Bedford schools.

According to Superintedent Jon Sills the ability to invite students from outside the Bedford community into schools in town starts with the attitude of Bedford schools personnel. 

"Our philosophy is to exceed our responsibility to educate all the children before us," Sills said. "Our personnel work as teams that really contribute to the success of the range of kids we have before us. 

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Sills said the ability to bring in students from without the Bedford community also stems from a responsibility to give children access to an education they might not otherwise have. 

"It's a commitment to kids who have no control over the condition they live in," Sills said. 

School personnel in Bedford are well equipped to meet the needs of such a diverse student body due to the ability to work as a team and go "above and beyond normal expectations to address the increasingly complex needs of
our growing student population," according to Sills.

Sills said he believes these characteristics reflect the attitude of the larger Bedford community.

"These characteristics are our schools' expressions of the town's generous spirit, a spirit which has long been responsible for our educating the students from Hanscom Air Force Base," Sills said. 

While the children from homeless families living in the Bedford Plaza Hotel benefit from attending Bedford schools, Sills said he and the Bedford School Committee believe that Bedford students benefit from having cohorts from outside their own community.

"It is also an expression of the school committee's strongly held belief
that the children of Bedford benefit from being educated in a school
community that contains the diversity of backgrounds, challenges and life
experiences that mirrors the world beyond its border," Sills said. 

The costs to Bedford taxpayers of having children from homeless famlies at Bedford schools include transportation of these children to their previous school district, or, in some cases, back to Bedford schools, translator costs and increased hours for school personnel. 

In transportation costs alone, transporting children from homeless families has cost Bedford taxpayers $38,762.38 for the 2012-13 school year to date. 

If the trend for the 2012-13 school year continues, the cost of transporting students from homeless families could climb to anywhere from $150,000 to $180,000, according to Sills.

While these costs are reimbursed by the state directly to Bedford, there could be a 45% cut in funding for the program following a revenue shortfall announced by Gov. Patrick late last year.

The program also places families in hotels in Framingham, Chelmsford, Burlington, Bedford, Danvers, Malden, Marlborough, Natick, Northborough, Tewksbury, Woburn and Framingham,according to the Massachusetts State Auditor's Office. 

Stay tuned to Bedford Patch for more on the program placing homeless families in the Bedford Plaza Hotel and the impact on Bedford taxpayers.


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