The number in itself is staggering. It’s enough to pause thought, blocking the mind from moving to the next stage of trying to understand what it means or what to do.
In West Virginia, 10,522 students are homeless. That’s 4 percent of the entire student population enrolled in the state’s K-12 schools, or one kid out of every classroom with 25 students. The data comes from the West Virginia Department of Education and covers the 2018-19 school year.
Further examination shows Jefferson County, the wealthiest county in the state, has the most homeless school attendees, at 1,411, or 16 percent of the county’s student population. Next highest is Kanawha, at 652, which represents 3 percent of students. Clay County rounds out the top three, with 633 homeless students. That accounts for 34 percent of K-12 students there, because of the county’s comparatively lower population.
Moving past shock, to better understand the problem, it’s important to define what “homeless” actually means under federal guidelines that the state Education Department uses in tabulating these numbers.