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Evictions take toll on student mental health, test scores

RACINE — Being forced out of a home because of an eviction could be a traumatic experience for anyone. But it can be especially so for children in an uncertain housing situation who are also facing the prospect of changing schools.

Holly Moore, a social worker at Case High School, has worked closely with multiple students who have gone through one or more evictions. She’s seen that these students typically struggle with confidence, don’t attend classes as regularly as their peers and can suffer mental health issues.

“I think that comes from that constant sense of living in fear,” Moore said. “I’ve worked with some kids pretty closely that have been through it a couple times.”

Racine has a more transient student population than the state as a whole. Roughly 52 percent of students in Racine made at least one move between the 2006-2007 and 2010-2011 school years, compared with 36 percent of students statewide.

That is according to a report prepared for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction by graduate students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs.

Moore and her colleagues at Racine Unified who work with transient students on a regular basis said they didn’t know how many of those students had been evicted, but all believe it is a fairly common occurrence.

“I think we encounter kids very, very frequently that are living in that cycle, whether or not they always convey that,” Moore said. “We just know because of the mobility. They’re moving constantly.”

By the numbers

According to the report for the DPI, Wisconsin students who did not move in 2009-10 had statistically significantly higher test scores the next school year than students who did move. These trends are consistent for both reading and math standardized test scores.

In the eyes of Marcus Britton, an associate professor of sociology at UW-Milwaukee, sometimes people overlook the potential that is wasted and the cost to society when youths grow up in the cycle of eviction. These children might struggle to graduate from high school and hold down good jobs due to the setbacks that come with housing instability.

According to Matthew Desmond, a Princeton University sociologist and founder of The Eviction Lab, housing instability such as the kind caused by eviction can have a big impact on a child’s future.

“Compared with their peers, homeless students and those with high rates of residential instability perform worse on standardized tests, have lower school achievement and delayed literacy skills, are more likely to be truant, and are more likely to drop out,” stated a 2013 Harvard study coauthored by Desmond called “Evicting Children.”

According to Desmond, families are more likely to relocate after an eviction to disadvantaged neighborhoods.

“In the absence of residential stability, it is increasingly difficult for low-income families to enjoy a kind of psychological stability which allows people to place an emotional investment in their home, social relationships, and community; school stability, which increases the chances that children will excel in their studies and graduate,” Desmond said in a 2015 Harvard University study called “Eviction’s Fallout: Housing, Hardship, and Health.”

Moore said she mostly works with students who have been evicted to give them emotional support. When they know that an eviction is coming, Moore said, she can usually watch these students’ emotional well-being wane and their ability to handle outside stress plummet.

Some students are numb to the situation and have stopped trying to form connections with their peers or lack investment in their schooling, as they know another move is probable. These students are also more likely to drop out and be truant, according to Desmond’s 2013 study.

According to Andrea Rittgers, Unified’s director of student services, many transient students suffer from anxiety and depression because of a lack of control in their home life.

“Sometimes they’re very frustrated by their parents’ decisions,” Moore said. “They need to vent.”

What Unified does to help

Racine Unified helped 1,144 students and their families in the last school year through its Families in Transition program. That was an increase from the previous year’s 1,091, but significantly fewer than the 2,253 enrolled in the program in the 2013-14 school year.

The FIT program is a result of the McKinney-Vinto Homeless Assistance Act, a federal law passed in 1987 that requires districts to provide school stability to students who lose housing. After an eviction, the program helps students continue attending the same school for the rest of the year by providing transportation if their new housing is more than 2 miles from the school. These students also receive free lunch and a fee waiver.

“The main part is that it does keep them at their school so they don’t have to switch schools multiple times a year, because we know it’s very detrimental to their education,” said Kaylee Cutler, Families in Transition and truancy intervention specialist for Unified.

The district goes beyond the requirements of the act by providing items through the FIT program such as school supplies, hygiene items, deodorant and feminine hygiene products, as well as socks and underwear for elementary-age students. Cutler also refers students and their families to community programs that might help them.

Moore believes that more than 1,100 students last year would have qualified for help but didn’t sign up for FIT out of fear.

“A lot will move and won’t tell us the new address because they think we’ll kick them out,” Moore said.

Even though Unified allows students in unstable housing situations to finish the year at the same school, sometimes parents believe it’s easier for them to switch students to the new boundary school, especially if it’s near the new residence.

“Unfortunately, a lot of the parents, I don’t think, recognize the detriment of the mobility,” Moore said. “I don’t think they really realize how difficult school is when you are switching.”

Any Unified parent who is struggling because of eviction or homelessness can contact Cutler or a school social worker for help. Cutler can be reached by phone at 262-619-4620 or via email at

“I think what kids go through with situations like this, unfortunately, are larger than what we can address, but I think we do the best job we can,” Moore said.

“Unfortunately, a lot of the parents, I don’t think, recognize the detriment of the mobility. I don’t think they really realize how difficult school is when you are switching.” — Holly Moore, Case High School social worker

Burlington Flooding
One year after flood, Burlington bank on solid ground

BURLINGTON — Walking into the lobby of Fox River State Bank’s Downtown Burlington branch, it’s hard to imagine that just a year ago, the building was filled with nearly 2 feet of floodwater from the nearby Fox River.

When heavy rain fell July 11-12, the Burlington area took the brunt of the impact as the Fox River crested to a record of 16.5 feet. Residents and businesses suffered an estimated $8.2 million in damages. The Fox River State Bank, 241 E. Jefferson St., was no exception, with floodwaters inflicting an estimated $350,000 in damages, according to Keith Pollek, the bank’s president and CEO.

But the bank has managed to “make lemonade out of river water,” said Jay Risch, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions, as he toured the almost completely renovated bank Monday afternoon in commemoration of the one-year anniversary of the flooding.


Jeffery Schmid, left, senior vice president and chief support officer of Fox River State Bank, stands in the newly renovated lobby of the bank's Downtown Burlington branch with Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions Secretary Jay Risch Monday afternoon, July 9, 2018. Risch visited the bank to commemorate its recovery from last summer's historic flooding.

“We wanted to come into town to memorialize just how far you’ve come,” said Risch, who attended the presentation with Greg Reiman, the DFI’s assistant deputy secretary.

Everything touched by the floodwaters has been replaced: drywall, cabinets, chairs, desks, carpet, file cabinets and a change counting machine, to name just a few items. The flooding ended up enabling the bank to renovate virtually every aspect of itself, streamlining the customer experience and pushing the institution toward a more digital operation.

“Here we are a year later. As I look around the bank, I can’t visualize anymore what we went through for three months,” said Jeffery Schmid, the bank’s senior vice president and chief support officer. Some areas of the building are still unfinished, namely storage closets and file rooms, but anywhere customers or employees go has received a facelift.

The flood

When the bank flooded, it was an all-hands-on-deck situation. Pollek, employees and other bank officials put sandbags up to slow the water’s flow and stacked as many items as they could on top of tables. Some safe deposit boxes, file cabinets and the bank’s vault were partially or totally submerged.

Jack Zellweger / Journal Times file photo 

Barb Bakshis, left, executive vice president of Fox River State Bank; Keith Pollek, the bank’s chief executive officer; and bank employee Josh Scholbe, right, pile sandbags in front of the door of the bank, 241 E. Jefferson St., Burlington, as the Fox River flooded in this July 12, 2017, file photo.

The bank did not lose any money, but six figures’ worth — Pollek declined to say exactly how much for security reasons — was soaked in the vault. Employees had to dry the money and send it to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago to be shredded and replaced. But because the Fox River State Bank has a location in Lake Geneva, service was uninterrupted.

Most of the damage to the bank was covered by insurance, but Pollek acknowledged that many Burlington residents are still feeling the effects of the flood to this day. As part of his work as a board member of the Burlington Community Fund, Pollek raised about $500,000 for flood victims.

“This is what community banks do,” Risch said. “They help the towns bounce back.”

“This is what community banks do. They help the towns bounce back.” Jay Risch, secretary of the Wisconsin Department
of Financial Institutions

Photo courtesy of Rick Geiss 

Rick and his wife Sue pose for a picture at the Highlands Golf Club in Post Hills, Idaho.

Overflow crowd attends Payne and Dolan quarry hearing

CALEDONIA — More than 100 people filled the main hall at the Caledonia Village Hall on Monday for a public hearing on Payne and Dolan’s proposed quarry expansion, with more people listening to the hearing via a speaker in the building’s lobby.

The joint hearing of the village’s Plan Commission and Village Board opened with a presentation by Payne and Dolan Vice President Brian Endres and land resources manager Clint Weninger on the history of the site at Three Mile Road and Charles Street, their plans for expansion and reclamation.

After the presentation, members of the commission and the board questioned Endres and Weninger for about an hour before opening up the hearing for public comment. The public comment segment of the meeting lasted more than 1 hour, 45 minutes.

Those who spoke in favor included state Rep. Tom Weatherston, R-Caledonia, Payne and Dolan employees and other construction business owners who work with Payne and Dolan, speaking of the importance of having a nearby source for stone.

In opposition, dozens of neighboring homeowners or members of the community raised questions about dust’s effects on people’s health, complained about the effects of the blasts on their homes and asking how the expansion would affect their home values.


After the public meeting ended, the Plan Commission decided to table making a decision about the application. Village President Jim Dobbs appointed village staff to fact-check some of the allegations and research some of the questions raised during the hearing.

Village Attorney James Pruitt suggested that another hearing presenting evidence in response to comments raised at Monday’s public hearing could be treading on murky legal territory. Pruitt was unsure if the village was required to hold another public hearing to offer Payne and Dolan and the residents and opportunity to respond to what village officials learn.

The Plan Commission voted to table the proposal until its meeting on Aug. 27, assuming that its meeting planned for July 30 would be too soon to adequately research the arguments presented at the hearing.