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Coos County's homeless: 'Children are worrying about every basic need'
Myrtle Point School District has highest homeless student percentage in county

COOS COUNTY — Many of today’s students worry about where they are getting their next meal instead of studying for upcoming tests.

Last month, the Department of Education released numbers showing that the state’s student homeless count had reached an all-time high for the fourth year in a row.

When The World took a look at district numbers in Coos County, it was found that the Myrtle Point School District has the largest homeless percentage but are significantly less than they were a year ago.

In the 2016-17 school year, Myrtle Point saw 67 homeless students, which is 11.80 percent of its enrollment. For comparison, in 2015-16 there were 108 homeless students, which was 18 percent.

“The numbers have remained relatively consistent over time, with the exception of a large bulge in the ’15-16 year,” said Superintendent Nannette Hagen in an email to The World.

When asked why, Hagen pointed to economic struggles in the area.

“We have many families who are having difficulty finding living wage jobs in Myrtle Point and transportation for many is a struggle,” she said. “Additionally, the lack of availability of low income housing often creates a situation where families don’t have a choice but to double with friends or family.”

Hagen added that when families double up like that, it is a qualified condition of homelessness under the federal definition says anyone who “lacked a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence” is considered homeless.

“Finally, the substance abuse rate in our area also contributes to our homeless numbers,” she said. “Many lose their housing when they have contact with law enforcement for this reason.”

To help these students, the district offers free breakfast, lunch and a snack every day for those identified. There is also access to free tutoring, free clothes, and food and personal care items.

“At times we have given gas vouchers and other items to help ease the burden of these students,” Hagen said. “We are currently working with Tara Johnson at the Devereux Center on a possible partnership with them to bring some services to Myrtle Point.”

When asked how being homeless affects a child’s education, Hagen said, “How can it not affect it?”

“These children are worrying about every basic need such as food, shelter, clothes . . . as well as dealing with the other issues of stress that are the causes of the homelessness,” she said. “Many times these students have poor attendance as they are often used for family child care or were up late in the shelter or didn’t get to a shelter so were staying in a car. All facets of their life are affected.”

Not only that, but she added that often these kids don’t have a place to do their homework and can’t keep track of their belongings when they move from place to place.

“The relationships they develop with staff are critical because it is often how we learn how we can better serve them,” Hagen said.

The Coos Bay School District comes in second after Myrtle Point in these numbers. At Coos Bay, there were reported by ODE to be 259 homeless students, making 7.80 percent of its enrollment. However, Homeless Liaison Melinda Torres said in a previous interview that there were 300 homeless students in the district identified during enrollment this year but that since the start of the school year a handful dropped out.

As of now, Torres said there are 70 homeless students at the elementary level, 100 in middle school, and 120 in high school, totaling 290. These numbers include unaccompanied youth who are tenting, doubling up, couch surfing, living in a hotel, or anything else that qualifies as homeless.

“They are just kids without their parents because those parents left or these kids were abandoned and had to fend for themselves,” Torres said.

After Coos Bay Schools comes the Coquille School District with 60 homeless students at 6.06 percent, followed by Bandon at 23 homeless students at 3.18 percent.

The North Bend School District came in last in the county with 97 homeless students which is only 2.20 percent of its enrollment.

As previously reported, the ODE press release showed that student homelessness is not confined to Oregon’s urban areas.

“In fact, nine of the 10 districts with the highest rates of homeless students have enrollments of less than 250 students,” the release pointed out. “Oregon’s growing homeless population reflects a trend among West Coast states. California’s homeless student population is up 20 percent since 2014 to more than 200,000 students and Washington saw a double digit percentage increase last year to nearly 40,000 students. Oregon’s increase is 5.6 percent over last year and 19.2 percent since 2014.”

“While the numbers are heartbreaking, our resolve to make sure these students receive the best education possible is unfailing,” Acting Deputy Superintendent Colt Gill said. “Thanks to the hard work of liaisons at school districts and their partners in the communities, we can make the school environment as stable as possible for students who are dealing with difficult challenges outside the classroom.”

North Bend's robotics competition makes a splash

NORTH BEND — Students from the North Bend High School and Middle School science clubs competed in a remote control SeaPerch competition.

A SeaPerch is an underwater, remotely operated vehicle. Participating students had to use these small robotic subs they built to maneuver through a scavenger hunt and an obstacle course, with the fastest to complete the tasks the winner.

“It takes the kids about a week and a half to build. They’re made out of PVC pipe… Originally I got kits from the Sea Perch Organization, but after looking and seeing what was in there I realized I could get everything locally,” Darren Sinko, middle school science teacher and science club founder said

These contraptions consist of a box shaped frame made out of PVC, with two small floats made from spongy pool noodle material at the top to help control depth. The frame is outfitted with three 12 volt engines, which are housed in old film cases to protect them from the water. There is also a PVC armature on the front used for completing the underwater tasks these crafts are built for.

“The controllers are kind of difficult, because they have to solder different parts in them. They are kind of specialized and I do have to get them from the SeaPerch Organization,” Sinko said

The obstacle course is a series of hula hoops that the competitors must maneuver their SeaPerch through the fastest than the other students. The scavenger hunt tested the students’ ability to use their SeaPerch to pick up items off of a coat rack with the devices armature, the competition being who can retrieve the most items in the allotted time.

Sinko formed his science club with competition in mind, but is having some trouble finding local schools that are willing to compete. The club has traveled to compete in science competitions around the state. They’ll be traveling to Portland in February to compete in the Bonneville Power Association’s Science Bowl.

“The travel expenses are just killing us. I’m always scrounging for money, and trying to get grants … I would really like to have our competitions be more local.”

Sinko hopes that other local science programs hear about the SeaPerch event and in response work with him to create some local competition.

“I would like to have another one of these competitions in May, hopefully we can get some other schools out to compete,” Sinko said.

Supreme Court allows full enforcement of Trump travel ban (copy)

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday allowed the Trump administration to fully enforce a ban on travel to the United States by residents of six mostly Muslim countries.

This is not a final ruling on the travel ban: Challenges to the policy are winding through the federal courts, and the justices themselves ultimately are expected to rule on its legality.

But the action indicates that the high court might eventually approve the latest version of the ban, announced by President Donald Trump in September. Lower courts have continued to find problems with the policy.

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said the White House is "not surprised by (Monday's) Supreme Court decision permitting immediate enforcement of the President's proclamation limiting travel from countries presenting heightened risks of terrorism."

Opponents of this and previous versions of the ban say they show a bias against Muslims. They say that was reinforced most recently by Trump's retweets of anti-Muslim videos.

"President Trump's anti-Muslim prejudice is no secret. He has repeatedly confirmed it, including just last week on Twitter. It's unfortunate that the full ban can move forward for now, but this order does not address the merits of our claims," said Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Immigrants' Rights Project. The ACLU is representing some opponents of the ban.

Just two justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, noted their disagreement with court orders allowing the latest policy to take full effect.

The new policy is not expected to cause the chaos that ensued at airports when Trump rolled out his first ban without warning in January.

The ban applies to travelers from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. Lower courts had said people from those nations with a claim of a "bona fide" relationship with someone in the United States could not be kept out of the country. Grandparents, cousins and other relatives were among those courts said could not be excluded.

The courts were borrowing language the Supreme Court itself came up with last summer to allow partial enforcement of an earlier version of the ban.

Now, those relationships will no longer provide a blanket exemption from the ban, although visa officials can make exceptions on a case-by-case basis.

The justices offered no explanation for their order, but the administration had said that blocking the full ban was causing "irreparable harm" because the policy is based on legitimate national security and foreign policy concerns.

In lawsuits filed in Hawaii and Maryland, federal courts said the updated travel ban violated federal immigration law. The travel policy also applies to travelers from North Korea and to some Venezuelan government officials and their families, but the lawsuits did not challenge those restrictions. Also unaffected are refugees. A temporary ban on refugees expired in October.

All the rulings so far have been on a preliminary basis. The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, will be holding arguments on the legality of the ban this week.

David Levine, a University of California Hastings law school professor, said that by allowing the ban to take effect just days before the appeals court arguments, the justices were signaling their view.

"I think it's tipping the hand of the Supreme Court," Levine said. "It suggests that from their understanding, the government is more likely to prevail on the merits than we might have thought."

Both appeals courts are dealing with the issue on an accelerated basis, and the Supreme Court noted it expects those courts to reach decisions "with appropriate dispatch."

Quick resolution by appellate courts would allow the Supreme Court to hear and decide the issue this term, by the end of June.

Trump takes rare step to reduce 2 national monuments in Utah (copy)

SALT LAKE CITY — President Donald Trump on Monday took the rare step of scaling back two sprawling national monuments in Utah, declaring that "public lands will once again be for public use" in a move cheered by Republican leaders who lobbied him to undo protections they considered overly broad.

The decision marks the first time in a half century that a president has undone these types of land protections. Tribal and environmental groups oppose the decision and began filing lawsuits Monday in a bid to stop Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

Trump made the plan official during a speech at the State Capitol, where he signed proclamations to shrink the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. Both monuments encompass millions of acres of land.

State officials said the protections were overly broad and closed off the area to energy development and other access.

Environmental and tribal groups say the designations are needed to protect important archaeological and cultural resources, especially the more than 1.3 million-acre Bears Ears site featuring thousands of Native American artifacts, including ancient cliff dwellings and petroglyphs.

Trump argued that the people of Utah know best how to care for their land.

"Some people think that the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington," Trump said. "And guess what? They're wrong."

Roughly 3,000 demonstrators lined up near the State Capitol to protest Trump's announcement. Some held signs that said, "Keep your tiny hands off our public lands," and they chanted, "Lock him up!" A smaller group gathered in support, including some who said they favor potential drilling or mining there that could create jobs. Bears Ears has no oil or gas, Zinke told reporters, although Grand Staircase-Escalante has coal.

"Your timeless bond with the outdoors should not be replaced with the whims of regulators thousands and thousands of miles away," Trump said. "I've come to Utah to take a very historic action to reverse federal overreach and restore the rights of this land to your citizens."

Bears Ears, created last December by President Barack Obama, will be reduced by about 85 percent, to 201,876 acres.

Grand Staircase-Escalante, designated in 1996 by President Bill Clinton, will be reduced from nearly 1.9 million acres to 1,003,863 acres.

Both were among a group of 27 monuments that Trump ordered Zinke to review this year.

Zinke accompanied Trump aboard Air Force One, as did Utah's Republican U.S. senators, Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee. Hatch and other Utah Republican leaders pushed Trump to launch the review, saying the monuments designated by the former Democratic presidents locked up too much federal land.

Trump framed the decision as returning power to the state, saying, "You know and love this land the best and you know the best how to take care of your land." He said the decision would "give back your voice."

"Public lands will once again be for public use," Trump said to cheers.

Hatch, who introduced Trump, said that when "you talk, this president listens" and that Trump promised to help him with "federal overreach."

Earthjustice filed the first of several expected lawsuits Monday, calling the reduction of Grand Staircase-Escalante an abuse of the president's power that jeopardizes a "Dinosaur Shangri-la" full of fossils. Some of the dinosaur fossils sit on a plateau that is home to one of the country's largest known coal reserves, which could now be open to mining. The organization is representing eight conservation groups.

Native American leaders said they expect to file a lawsuit challenging the Bears Ears decision soon.

Patagonia President and CEO Rose Marcario said the outdoor-apparel company will join an expected court fight against the monument reduction, which she described as the "largest elimination of protected land in American history."

No president has tried to eliminate a monument, but some have reduced or redrawn the boundaries on 18 occasions, according to the National Park Service. The most recent instance came in 1963, when President John F. Kennedy slightly downsized Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico.

Trump's move against Bears Ears, covering lands considered sacred to tribes that long pushed for protections, marks his latest affront to Native Americans.

Trump overrode tribal objections to approve the Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines. He also used a White House event honoring Navajo Code Talkers to take a political jab at Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat he has nicknamed "Pocahontas" for her claim to have Native American heritage.

"One week ago today, our Code Talkers were disrespected. And one week later, we get this," said Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez, referring to the monuments.

Trump signed an executive order in April directing Zinke to review the protections, which Trump is able to upend under the 1906 Antiquities Act. The law gives presidents broad authority to declare federal lands as monuments and restrict their use.