Continuing foreclosure crisis affecting schools

December 2, 2008 7:19:20 PM PST
Bay Area cities like Oakley, Antioch and Brentwood have been hit especially hard in these tough economic times.

Foreclosures continue to affect families and students.

The economy is impacting schools in Contra Costa County.

Monday was just another day at Marsh Creek Elementary in Brentwood. School keeps kids focused on things other than the housing slump which has devastated this community.

"There have been families that have had to move out, or in, as result of the housing crisis," said Principal Michael Bowen.

So far this year 728 homes in Brentwood have been lost to foreclosure according to Dataquick, which tracks real estate activity.

A few families are barely hanging on. This year the school is looking out for them.

"We have a program which gets clothes into the hands of kids in need. This time of year we always do a giving tree where we provide for families at the holiday time, and we are expanding that this year," said Bowen.

A food drive is also expected.

It's no surprise that when you have empty homes, school enrollments go down, which means school districts get less money from Sacramento.

If the average daily attendance number goes down the amount of funds the district receives will also decrease.

Gone are the days when the Brentwood Union School District had a yearly growth of between 7-10 percent.

Just a few miles away is the City of Oakley where 620 homes so far this year have been lost to foreclosure.

"If you drive through a subdivision you see all these vacant and empty homes, and the prices on the homes are 50 percent less than what they paid just two years ago," said teacher Dave Behling.

Karin Holman teaches design at Freedom High School and says the school district has no way of keeping tabs on the number of students who leave because of the housing crisis.

"Whether they move out of the district, or to another school in the district, we don't know. They just all of a sudden disappear one day," she said.

But a study done by family advocacy group First Focus found that more kids in California are being affected by the downturn in the economy than in any other state, with an estimated 300,000 losing their homes.

"My daughter came home from school the other day and asked if her friend could move in with us because they were losing their home, and he doesn't want to have to move to another high school. He wants to finish his year out here," Holman told ABC7.

Some students have been forced to get part-time jobs to help their parents. At Freedom High School students have opened a thrift shop where students can swap clothes.

"Kids don't go shopping as much as they normally would. A lot of kids have one, two jobs, maybe more," said student Knicy Bailey.

Student Molly Reid has two part-time jobs in a new shopping center.

"I feel guilty asking them for gas money. That's what I use my paycheck for, is to buy gas. Luckily it's gone down some," she said.

A few teachers have reduced the homework load to help those working students. And, for some the prospect of going to a four-year university sounds bleak right now.

"College is going to be hard, getting money for it. I am going to have to get student loans because I want to go to university," said one student.

Dave Behling is a teacher. He bought a house while waiting to sell his old one. When the market collapsed he was unable to sell, forcing him into foreclosure.

His wife now has a second job.

"We're pretty much like everybody else, pay check to pay check, which is something new to us, because we were never like that," he said.

Hundreds of families are echoing those words.


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