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Education for homeless kids gets a one-month boost at Midvale shelter

FILE — The newly rebuilt Road Home Midvale Center Monday, Nov. 23, 2015.
FILE — The newly rebuilt Road Home Midvale Center Monday, Nov. 23, 2015.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Some 50 homeless children staying at the Road Home's Midvale Center are ensured a timely start to their summer education programs thanks to funding approved by the Utah State Board of Education.

The state school board unanimously approved a one-time allocation of $15,000 to help fund the program until July 1, when other funding is expected to be available. The funds, federal mineral lease revenue in the state board's discretionary account, will be combined with a $10,000 private donation, to funding programs for the remainder of the month.

Canyons School District and the Midvale Boys and Girls Club are partners in the educational program, which is offered weekdays 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. It includes meals, academic instruction from certified teachers, field trips and other activities.

Starting July 1, a $450,000 appropriation authorized by the Utah Legislature for education programs for children experiencing homelessness, can be utilized.

Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, and House Majority Whip Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, teamed up to secure the education appropriation. Eliason also serves on the Road Home’s board of trustees.

“Children experiencing homelessness can lose an estimated three to six months of educational attainment with each episode of homelessness. This funding will help mitigate this issue for some of the most at-risk students in the state of Utah,” said Eliason in a statement.

The Midvale Center, a new emergency homeless shelter for families that opened in November 2015, was permitted to operate seasonally under a conditional use permit granted by the Midvale City Council.

The Road Home had planned to close the new shelter at the end of March or in early April and had not budgeted for operating costs beyond that date.

But the Utah Legislature, during its 2016 general session, passed SB169, which prohibits municipalities from enforcing ordinances that prohibit homeless shelters from operating year-round as part of a comprehensive strategy to better address homelessness statewide.

Lawmakers appropriated $9.25 million to fund the first of a three-year statewide Housing and Homeless Reform Initiative.

In April, the Salt Lake County Council granted Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams' request for a $200,000 appropriation to help cover the shelter's operating costs until the initiative funding becomes available July 1.

Road Home has operated an overflow homeless shelter in Midvale during the winter months since the 1990s. The shelter, which was run out of a warehouse in an industrial area, was rebuilt in same location and opened to families shortly before Thanksgiving in 2015.

While the new family shelter has capacity for 300 people, it has limited space for programs so children are bused to school and other educational services.

Midvale City is served by the Canyons School District, so many of the children who stay at the Midvale Center attend Canyons schools. However, school districts bus students who started the school year in other area school districts to their school of origin to provide continuity throughout the academic year.

The academic year in Salt Lake area school districts wrapped up last week.

"Students experiencing homelessness often face significant barriers in education, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to partner with the Legislature to mitigate some of those challenges through summer learning programs,” David Crandall, state school board chairman, said in a statement.