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Monarch School Could Lose Its Exemption As Homeless-Only Campus

Students at Monarch School do stretches during physical education class on Oc...

Photo by Susan Murphy / KPBS

Above: Students at Monarch School do stretches during physical education class on Oct. 11, 2013.

The future of San Diego’s school for 300 homeless children could be in jeopardy.

The Monarch school is able to serve a population of homeless students exclusively because of a special federal exemption, which could soon be eliminated under a proposed Senate bill.

The Monarch School, a $15 million K-12 campus in downtown's East Village, is able to serve exclusively a population of homeless students because of a special federal exemption. But a Senate bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which recently passed a Senate committee vote, would eliminate that exemption and could force Monarch to close its doors.

To keep it's homeless-only designation, Monarch would have to become a private institution, said Erin Spiewak, CEO of the Monarch School Project.

"Which would mean that we would no longer receive any public funding for the school which makes up about 50 percent of our budget, so obviously there would be huge financial ramifications if the Senate were to pass this legislation," Spiewak said.

The other option would be to open to the public, which Spiewak said would be intimidating to the homeless students.

"They feel more comfortable talking about what they’re going through, and sharing and asking for help and support," Spiewak said. "Or telling us that they didn’t have breakfast or a shower that morning and being able to do a load of laundry, or going to the boutique to get a pair of shoes."

In addition to its education program, Monarch provides other support services, such as food, healthcare, clothing, school supplies, transportation and counseling.

Monarch is one of three schools in the country that would be impacted by the law.

Spiewak said Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer fully support Monarch as a homeless-only school, and have vowed to help keep it open.

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