A Teacher Perspective

As housing costs in Los Altos and Mountain View have skyrocketed in recent years, it has caused the homeless populations of both cities to more than double. While few students have become completely homeless, some are left living in their family cars, renting space in garages or moving to apartments farther and farther away from Los Altos.

“Lots of times [when these students come to school] they’re hungry,” Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) teacher Arantxa Arriada said. “They’re really sleepy because they are not sleeping well that night, either because they are living in a car or because they are stressed out.”

Many of these economically challenged students work long hours and take care of relatives to support their families. Arriada recounted one student’s struggles with balancing grades and work.

“He was stressed,” Arriada said. “He was really busy, but he had to work and help his mom. And he was also worrying, ‘How am I going to pay for college?’ So he was trying to earn money and save money… I don’t know exactly how many hours, but he was working close to full time on top of school.”

These issues are not easy for high schools to alleviate; our school tries to help these students through several academic support programs, such as AVID and the Skills classes.

In general, studies show that there can be a one-year gap in school readiness between 3-year-olds and a 15-month gap in vocabulary development between 5-year-olds from high-income and low-income families. As students reach high school, these gaps become harder and harder to bridge.

“It’s just like sports… where kids typically have a fair amount of preparation coming into high school,” Assistant Principal Galen Rosenberg said. “You may have really good athletes among kids who did not have the opportunity through middle school and upper elementary school to participate in club teams, but the kid who’s got all those advantages is just going to be ahead and get ahead faster.”

However, there are kids without those early benefits who are able to persevere and excel, making invisible the numbers of their families’ annual salaries as they reach levels of academic and social success to rival those who sport six-figure paychecks.