News

Mountain View Whisman School board balks at safe parking program for homeless students

City regulations blamed; MV Whisman has 23 students who live in vehicles with their families

Mountain View Whisman school board members rejected the idea of offering homeless students a safe parking program at one of the city's middle schools, citing the logistical challenges of supporting families living in RVs and trailers.

The decision came after hours of deliberations during a study session Saturday morning, Sept. 21, less than three days before the Mountain View City Council is scheduled to discuss an all-hours ban on oversized vehicles parked along most of the city's streets.

Though the ban could push homeless students out of the school district, trustees agreed that providing a haven for RVs at either Crittenden or Graham Middle School would be fraught with challenges. The district would have to abide by the city's strict regulations on safe parking programs, get buy-in from neighbors and convince homeless families to self-identify and participate in the program.

Board president Tamara Wilson said the school district's core mission is making sure students get a solid education, and she felt the board was getting ahead of itself trying to take the lead on a safe parking program.

"We all agree it's the morally right thing to do -- to house people and give them a stable place to land," Wilson said. "How we do that is exceedingly challenging."

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The idea of a school-sponsored safe parking program was first floated in June by Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph, who suggested that RVs housing homeless families with children in the school district could be moved off of city streets and onto school parking lots. Of the close to 300 occupied vehicles in the city, 21 district students are living in 16 RVs and 2 more children are living in one car, according to data collected by the school district earlier this month.

A total of 142 students in the district are deemed homeless according to state guidelines, a majority of whom reside with more than one family in the same home. Most homeless students attend Castro Elementary and Graham and Crittenden middle schools.

Despite bringing up the idea in June, Rudolph was skeptical that the district could make it work. At the Saturday meeting, he pointed out that the school district would likely have to abide by the city's safe parking ordinance, which is expected to limit the hours of operation from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. and force families to move during the day -- something that he believes many families won't be willing to do.

Even if the school district could negotiate a deal to keep RVs on-site for a full school year -- which some trustees favored -- it would trigger a whole host of requirements, including access to water and waste removal, Rudolph said. It's also unclear whether all 16 RVs could fit at Crittenden or Graham, as the city is seeking to impose 10-foot buffers between vehicles and 25-foot buffers from neighboring residential properties.

Perhaps one of the biggest hurdles is that many of the families don't own the RVs and are renting them from a third party for anywhere from $500 to $800 month, Rudolph said. Those families aren't in control of where the vehicle sits, which is where the idea safe parking program truly breaks down. He said the more he considered the idea, the more red flags came up and the less confident he was that the district could take the lead.

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"My gut is telling me that yes, morally it is the right thing to do. But logistically and from a liability standpoint, it's not the place the district should be in," Rudolph said. "We should look at other avenues."

As homelessness continues to increase across the Bay Area, several cities and faith-based organizations have sought to create safe parking programs for those residing in cars, RVs and trailers. State lawmakers considered and ultimately tabled legislation this month that would have cleared the way for safe parking programs at community college campuses, but Rudolph said he was aware of only one K-12 district in the region that had even considered the idea.

Mountain View Whisman board members generally agreed that they wouldn't want to pursue safe parking without knowing whether homeless families would even be willing to participate. A majority of the 142 students have yet to be re-identified by the district as homeless for the 2019-20 school year because the parents are hesitant to communicate with any government agency, said Priscila Bogdanic, the district's liaison for homeless students and foster youth.

If the families are hesitant to disclose that information confidentially, Rudolph said they may be reluctant to plant themselves on Graham Middle School's parking lot over the course of the school year. The parking lot would be in view from the athletic fields, and students could easily be identified as homeless by their peers.

In lieu of a safe parking program, trustees said they want the school district to play an advocacy role, assisting homeless families and linking them to other safe parking programs. Some trustees floated the idea of giving families with kids priority status for safe parking sites operated by the city or faith-based organizations.

Throughout the study session, board members also mulled whether to create a more formalized support system for homeless students. While the district often acts as the "first line of defense" in helping homeless families with children, Wilson said it lacks an overarching strategic plan to help the district's most vulnerable students.

"I think this is especially important for this specific homeless population," she said.

Bogdanic said the district connects families who identify as homeless with donated sleeping bags, backpacks, clothes and information on resources like the Community Services Agency of Mountain View and Los Altos (CSA). Through contributions from school PTAs, the district also provides gift cards to families in need, the most useful of which are for Target and Safeway.

"It really goes from clothing to referrals to CSA," she said. "I've taken families to CSA directly and helped with the younger children while the mom is with a case manager."

Schools also provide help on a case-by-case basis depending on what homeless families need. On Friday last week, for example, Bogdanic said one of the students had lost or broke his glasses and needed a replacement.

Looking to the future, the district may establish a homework center available for needy students after school, though finding volunteers can be challenging, Bogdanic said. On early Thursday release days in particular, she said it's tough to find people who can be available from noon until 5 p.m.

The Mountain View City Council is scheduled to consider the oversized vehicle ban and safe parking ordinance at its meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 24, in the City Council Chambers, 500 Castro St. The open session of the meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.

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Mountain View Whisman School board balks at safe parking program for homeless students

City regulations blamed; MV Whisman has 23 students who live in vehicles with their families

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Mon, Sep 23, 2019, 12:24 pm

Mountain View Whisman school board members rejected the idea of offering homeless students a safe parking program at one of the city's middle schools, citing the logistical challenges of supporting families living in RVs and trailers.

The decision came after hours of deliberations during a study session Saturday morning, Sept. 21, less than three days before the Mountain View City Council is scheduled to discuss an all-hours ban on oversized vehicles parked along most of the city's streets.

Though the ban could push homeless students out of the school district, trustees agreed that providing a haven for RVs at either Crittenden or Graham Middle School would be fraught with challenges. The district would have to abide by the city's strict regulations on safe parking programs, get buy-in from neighbors and convince homeless families to self-identify and participate in the program.

Board president Tamara Wilson said the school district's core mission is making sure students get a solid education, and she felt the board was getting ahead of itself trying to take the lead on a safe parking program.

"We all agree it's the morally right thing to do -- to house people and give them a stable place to land," Wilson said. "How we do that is exceedingly challenging."

The idea of a school-sponsored safe parking program was first floated in June by Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph, who suggested that RVs housing homeless families with children in the school district could be moved off of city streets and onto school parking lots. Of the close to 300 occupied vehicles in the city, 21 district students are living in 16 RVs and 2 more children are living in one car, according to data collected by the school district earlier this month.

A total of 142 students in the district are deemed homeless according to state guidelines, a majority of whom reside with more than one family in the same home. Most homeless students attend Castro Elementary and Graham and Crittenden middle schools.

Despite bringing up the idea in June, Rudolph was skeptical that the district could make it work. At the Saturday meeting, he pointed out that the school district would likely have to abide by the city's safe parking ordinance, which is expected to limit the hours of operation from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. and force families to move during the day -- something that he believes many families won't be willing to do.

Even if the school district could negotiate a deal to keep RVs on-site for a full school year -- which some trustees favored -- it would trigger a whole host of requirements, including access to water and waste removal, Rudolph said. It's also unclear whether all 16 RVs could fit at Crittenden or Graham, as the city is seeking to impose 10-foot buffers between vehicles and 25-foot buffers from neighboring residential properties.

Perhaps one of the biggest hurdles is that many of the families don't own the RVs and are renting them from a third party for anywhere from $500 to $800 month, Rudolph said. Those families aren't in control of where the vehicle sits, which is where the idea safe parking program truly breaks down. He said the more he considered the idea, the more red flags came up and the less confident he was that the district could take the lead.

"My gut is telling me that yes, morally it is the right thing to do. But logistically and from a liability standpoint, it's not the place the district should be in," Rudolph said. "We should look at other avenues."

As homelessness continues to increase across the Bay Area, several cities and faith-based organizations have sought to create safe parking programs for those residing in cars, RVs and trailers. State lawmakers considered and ultimately tabled legislation this month that would have cleared the way for safe parking programs at community college campuses, but Rudolph said he was aware of only one K-12 district in the region that had even considered the idea.

Mountain View Whisman board members generally agreed that they wouldn't want to pursue safe parking without knowing whether homeless families would even be willing to participate. A majority of the 142 students have yet to be re-identified by the district as homeless for the 2019-20 school year because the parents are hesitant to communicate with any government agency, said Priscila Bogdanic, the district's liaison for homeless students and foster youth.

If the families are hesitant to disclose that information confidentially, Rudolph said they may be reluctant to plant themselves on Graham Middle School's parking lot over the course of the school year. The parking lot would be in view from the athletic fields, and students could easily be identified as homeless by their peers.

In lieu of a safe parking program, trustees said they want the school district to play an advocacy role, assisting homeless families and linking them to other safe parking programs. Some trustees floated the idea of giving families with kids priority status for safe parking sites operated by the city or faith-based organizations.

Throughout the study session, board members also mulled whether to create a more formalized support system for homeless students. While the district often acts as the "first line of defense" in helping homeless families with children, Wilson said it lacks an overarching strategic plan to help the district's most vulnerable students.

"I think this is especially important for this specific homeless population," she said.

Bogdanic said the district connects families who identify as homeless with donated sleeping bags, backpacks, clothes and information on resources like the Community Services Agency of Mountain View and Los Altos (CSA). Through contributions from school PTAs, the district also provides gift cards to families in need, the most useful of which are for Target and Safeway.

"It really goes from clothing to referrals to CSA," she said. "I've taken families to CSA directly and helped with the younger children while the mom is with a case manager."

Schools also provide help on a case-by-case basis depending on what homeless families need. On Friday last week, for example, Bogdanic said one of the students had lost or broke his glasses and needed a replacement.

Looking to the future, the district may establish a homework center available for needy students after school, though finding volunteers can be challenging, Bogdanic said. On early Thursday release days in particular, she said it's tough to find people who can be available from noon until 5 p.m.

The Mountain View City Council is scheduled to consider the oversized vehicle ban and safe parking ordinance at its meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 24, in the City Council Chambers, 500 Castro St. The open session of the meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.

Comments

Poor Rudolph!
Shoreline West
on Sep 23, 2019 at 2:28 pm
Poor Rudolph!, Shoreline West
on Sep 23, 2019 at 2:28 pm
40 people like this

Poor Rudolph, striving to attack these big ticket items in order to distract from the fact that he isn't capable of actually doing the work of a superintendent: manage programs with available funds, increase learning in general and specifically for the district's ELL population, grow a decent leadership team both in the back office and in schools, etc.

Well no gold star here.

Now how about fixing the problems at Vargas? Getting rid of portables at all schools? Improving student test scores?

I thought his big raise was based on amazing improvements which were to be released soon. Board president Wilson, where is the data?


Mistral Parent
Old Mountain View
on Sep 23, 2019 at 4:04 pm
Mistral Parent, Old Mountain View
on Sep 23, 2019 at 4:04 pm
31 people like this

This is a pure PR and feel good move by an activist School Board while the schools turn out mediocre performance year after year and chaos abounds in virtually every other function.

Meanwhile at Mistral we are stuck with an incompetent principal in way over her head who only targets kids rather than solving issues and raising children to their potential. Disgraceful. A complete disaster. This is what happens when you chase away an honest, dedicated, hardworking, professional and way more qualified principal and put a crony in her place.

Don't get me started on all the fat cat raises that are passed out. Rudolph, Ghysels, Bauer... they all need to go!


reader
Waverly Park
on Sep 23, 2019 at 4:10 pm
reader, Waverly Park
on Sep 23, 2019 at 4:10 pm
10 people like this

Leave it to the MVWSD trustees to take a pressing issue, say that it's "morally the right thing to do" and then do the opposite, giving a bunch of dumb excuses. I've seen this too many times before. "We'd really like to....but we can't"


Mistral parent X3
Castro City
on Sep 23, 2019 at 7:39 pm
Mistral parent X3, Castro City
on Sep 23, 2019 at 7:39 pm
3 people like this

To Mistral Parent....please spare me the negative talk of Ms. Miller...she had to come in and clean house from the years of incompetence that started when Judy Crates left. This article has nothing to do with Mistral but somehow you found a way to bring it up in a negative light. Marcela?? By the way, nobody (parents, colleagues and former students) do NOT miss her (you).


Josh
Registered user
Sylvan Park
on Sep 23, 2019 at 9:40 pm
Josh, Sylvan Park
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2019 at 9:40 pm
6 people like this

Focus on schooling children. And keeping them safe. Oppose increased demand for public schools stemming from more office space and residents in the city. South county has room. North county doesn't.


Entitled
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2019 at 11:20 pm
Entitled, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2019 at 11:20 pm
3 people like this

[Post removed due to trolling]


Cfrink
Registered user
Willowgate
on Sep 24, 2019 at 12:31 am
Cfrink, Willowgate
Registered user
on Sep 24, 2019 at 12:31 am
2 people like this

This is an unfortunate outcome. Many, if not most, of these students who are affected by this lived in Mountain View housing and somehow got displaced. Now they’re struggling in vehicle dwellings. It’s quite the challenge to be homeless as an adult, let alone with children in school. I applaud the Board for considering the effort and the Superintendent for sparking the interest. I’m hopeful that the affected children and their families can find a way to remain local and safe and somehow find housing.


Another MIstral Parent
Castro City
on Sep 24, 2019 at 7:03 am
Another MIstral Parent, Castro City
on Sep 24, 2019 at 7:03 am
15 people like this

There's no point focusing on RV parking when the basics of running the schools is failing. It's the equivalent of yelling squirrel!

I agree Mistral and Graham, like the rest of the district, is a mess. Principals and Vice Principals and teachers change yearly offering no stability while cronies from Rudolph's former district from South Carolina are imported in. What once was a thriving program is now in ruins with parents leaving.


MVResident2008
Monta Loma
on Sep 24, 2019 at 8:27 am
MVResident2008, Monta Loma
on Sep 24, 2019 at 8:27 am
10 people like this

All that money spent on RV parking brings more 'homeless':
Web Link
Meanwhile our seniors retiring out after multi decades of contributions to the city face a six year waiting list to even be considered for affordable housing and their grandchildren can't even get a decent school.


sorry, not very pc
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Sep 24, 2019 at 2:00 pm
sorry, not very pc, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 24, 2019 at 2:00 pm
9 people like this


Okay, here is my new idea, let's ask RV'ers, should they open their doors, to move from Eagle Park (Shoreline Blvd) and elsewhere to a school parking lots assuming they have school age children. Genius!

Pouring human waste down sewers, failure to self-identify is not a human right. Holy cow, the answer is no. Turning schools into mobile encampments is not a solution, it's a problem. Should it come to pass, hopefully there will be a free needle exchange program and mobile showers in the parking lots. With Megan's law, we could post pictures of local sex offenders in every classroom. It could motivate the children, while not scared walking through the parking lots with their parents, to work hard in school. Sex offenders, drug users have children too. Self identification is pretty important.









Josh
Registered user
Sylvan Park
on Sep 24, 2019 at 2:42 pm
Josh, Sylvan Park
Registered user
on Sep 24, 2019 at 2:42 pm
8 people like this

Don't forget the office space at City Hall. And the underground parking at City Hall. And the police department lot. Plenty of room overnight.
Getting anyone to leave in the morning could be a challenge. Maybe hire that self-help, short-term rental lady (that got arrested) to move them along each morning!


CR parent
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Sep 25, 2019 at 7:53 pm
CR parent, Rex Manor
Registered user
on Sep 25, 2019 at 7:53 pm
5 people like this

@reader
"Leave it to the MVWSD trustees to take a pressing issue, say that it's "morally the right thing to do" and then do the opposite, giving a bunch of dumb excuses. I've seen this too many times before. "We'd really like to....but we can't""

I have personally driven in and through the parking lots at both middle schools, the District Office and most of the elementary schools, I suggest you do the same.

When I look at the access in these many parking lots, what I see is that we could support quite a few CARS overnight if every school lot were opened up to such students. Cars are not a real physical problem.

The thing is, that as far as we have been able to determine, there are only TWO such cars with an MVWSD enrolled student living in them. Dr. Rudolph has already said that if all we had to deal with were cars, the problem would be a lot easier to solve.

Worse off yet, are the bulk of homeless students living in rented motor homes that they can't move from where the owners parked them. All they have are door keys and cannot drive the motor homes anywhere.

If you drive into the parking lots (even the biggest ones at the 2 middle schools) and you try to imagine motor homes driving in and somehow parking in a manner that allows other motor homes to enter and leave, as they need to, you would see how those motor homes would unavoidably block FIRE LANES all over the place.

It would simply not be safe for anyone to park more than about 3-4 motor homes at each middle school and maybe one or two at a few of the elementary schools.

At some of the schools and at the District Office, the parking lots cannot even get a motor home into and through the parking lots without driving in the fire lane, let alone park even one motor home without blocking the fire lanes.

This is simply a fact and has nothing to do with politics or how anyone feels about the Super or District Staff.


Christopher Chiang
Registered user
North Bayshore
on Sep 25, 2019 at 8:39 pm
Christopher Chiang, North Bayshore
Registered user
on Sep 25, 2019 at 8:39 pm
2 people like this

It's commendable that the superintendent and school board are trying to do something for our most vulnerable students. And they made the right decision that student RVs on campus have too many variables to work well.

There are other things that are worth doing immediately, depending on the needs.
If students are coming to school unclean:
1) Expand campus washing machines and dryers (if needed, some mv schools already have this)
2) Providing clean donated clothes
3) Installing a shower in the administrative office bathroom, example of schools doing this: Web Link

If students are falling behind based on lack of resources:
1) Work with broadband providers to provided hopstops, examples of schools doing this: Web Link

Longer term:
Support housing growth in MV.


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