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Garfield Heights schools deal with a growing number of transitory students

Posted at 9:52 PM, Aug 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-28 23:20:51-04

GARFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio — Local education and housing experts report a lack of affordable housing has a growing number of students transferring to different schools, negatively impacting their academic performance.

This growing trend is hitting schools in Cleveland and the inner-ring suburbs, like Garfield Heights especially hard.

Garfield Heights Superintendent Chris Hanke told News 5 Garfield had 700 students flow in and out of his district in 2018.

Hanke agrees a lack of affordable housing and finding good enough wages is a key reason families and single parents are forced to move their children from school to school, sometimes multiple times in a single school year.

“I try to empathize with people, I try to put myself in their place with the challenges that they face,” Hanke said.

“Housing can be unaffordable for folks. It would be great if we had more resources in this community in this county to help families with housing.”

Hanke said his district is responding to the problem, creating an online portal and face-to-face meeting to help families that are facing a tough transition from school to school, district to district.

“Our main piece is support, just this year we’ve hired a family engagement coordinator and I think that this person will help with a lot of our families," Hanke said.

“Without getting into politics, my hope is every one of our families can get a stable income and a stable job to help them.”

Hanke agreed more federal and state funding is needed to create more affordable housing.

Aeshalaun Washington is trying to get her 12-year-old son back into Garfield Heights Middle School after rental house issues caused the district to determine she wasn't meeting the requirements for residency.

Washington, who works full-time as a nurse, has had to move her son to other schools three times due to changes in housing and employment circumstances.

Washington said more must be done to help struggling families so their children don't have to pay the price academically.

“We definitely need more affordable housing,” Washington said.

“I want him back in Garfield Municipal Schools because that’s where we live, that’s where his friends are.”

“He just went down when they just forced him out, his grades declined, his attitude and he just felt like nobody cared.”

Garfield Heights Schools said it will reevaluate Washington's residency status in the coming weeks.

Cleveland City Mission CEO Rick Trickel told News 5 if changes in funding for affordable housing don't happen soon hundreds of additional Northeast Ohio students will face a life of academic fragmentation, moving from school to school and creating poor educational performance.

“These kids as they move from place, to place, they are impacted educationally, they’re behind, they’re impacted physically, they suffer from a lot of different things,” Trickel said.