[Hpn] CYBER SCHOOLS for homeless children - Good? Bad? WHY? (fwd)

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Tue, 30 Oct 2001 20:51:49 -0800

How might "CYBER SCHOOLS for homeless children"
help or hinder homeless families?

What's YOUR OPINION -- and why?

FWD  Associated Press - AP Wire Service - Oct 28 2001


            <p>PITTSBURGH (AP) _ While educators debate the merits of cyber
schools in Pennsylvania, advocates for the homeless say an online
education could be a valuable tool for homeless children.

By the end of the school year, 30 of Allegheny County's homeless
students will be enrolled in online classes at two sites.

Educators hope the pilot program will prove a useful resource
for children and families contending with hurdles not faced in more
traditional settings.

``From a social standpoint, it's good for the kids because some
of them come here without the up-to-date clothes or school
supplies, so there's not that kind of pressure on them,'' said Ed
Brizzi, community education and outreach coordinator for

Womansplace, located in a small, white frame house on a
residential street in McKeesport, serves as a shelter for abused
women and is also one of two sites chosen for the pilot program.

Even though Womansplace is often a much-needed respite from
domestic violence, the temporary-resident status for residents can
be problematic when trying to enroll children in school.

Even if students are transferred to another school, the new
surroundings can create additional stress.

``They're already entering an unfamiliar setting, and this way
they don't have to go into another unfamiliar environment,'' said
Brizzi, who serves as an instructor in the classroom for children
aged 5 to 18.

Organizers emphasize that cyber schools are not intended to
isolate homeless children _ only to serve as a bridge until a life
that has become volatile at home becomes more stable.

According to federal estimates, there are 1.35 million children
in the United States who become homeless at some point during the

In 1997, the most recent year in which information is available,
88 percent of homeless children were enrolled in school, but only
45 percent of that group attended school regularly, said Barbara
Duffield, education director for the National Coalition for the

Duffield said cyber schools should not be considered a
replacement for a traditional education, because a large part of a
child's education involves socializing with other children.

But in difficult times, getting children to and from school, and
such things as finding and transferring school records, can become
difficult tasks.

Gail Odorcich, Allegheny County coordinator for Pennsylvania's
Homeless Children's Initiative, said if the pilot program proves
successful, cyber schools could become valuable in counties without
extensive aid services for the homeless.

The McKeesport pilot project, just south of Pittsburgh, is
funded by the shelter and by the local school district. Organizers
plan to open a second pilot program in a Pittsburgh homeless
shelter soon.

On the Net:

Center for the Homeless: http://www.center-for-homeless.com/

AP-ES-10-28-01 1552EST
Received Id AP1013018F7CB512 on Oct 28 2001 14:55


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