While the majority of local students have been spending the last several weeks outside of the classroom, a handful of Waterloo students just completed five weeks of learning last week.
This summer was the second year the Waterloo School District hosted a program for migrant students. Five children took part in the five-week summer school focusing on reading and math education funded through a Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction grant.
District administrator Brian Henning said there have previously been funds available through the DPI to serve migrant students but the money was primarily awarded during the school year. However, the children were often not in the district the entire academic year.
“The general idea was, let’s take the dollars and shift them to summer because that’s when the kids are here,” he said.
The district was awarded approximately $40,000 to run the program, which cannot be run as part of regular summer school. The money pays for staff and office support salaries, curriculum materials and transportation.
Lynette Diericks, an English as a second language teacher, heads up the summer program and said the main objective is to get the students caught up in curriculum they may have missed during the regular school year. She said many of the district’s 30 migrant students leave the district around Thanksgiving and return during spring break.
“We might not be able to touch base on every single thing they’ve missed but we’re keeping the brain going over the summer,” Diericks said.
Henning compared the migrant students to those whose families move due to being in the military, interrupting the children’s education. The summer program allows the district to fill in the gap when the students are not enrolled in Waterloo.
The district administrator said when the families leave the community for several months, the availability of education where the children move varies.
“If they’re in Mexico City, they have a great school system; but if they’re in rural Mexico in some little town they may not even have access to school at all,” he said. “But they all benefit from the help (during summer).”
Diericks said the summer program is held four days a week from 8 a.m. to noon with the first portion of the day focused on math and the latter centered on reading. The teacher needed to create an individual lesson plan for each of the five students. She and instructional aid Tina Avila were able to work one on one with the children, who ranged in grades preK-8.
After the first summer, the district did see some improvements in test scores among the students who chose to attend the migrant summer school program and not as much summer slide. Diericks added the children also had improved organizational skills during the regular academic year.
While the majority of the grant money is used to run the program, some of the funds are used to help purchase school supplies for the attendees.
“They were so excited because they got to go on Amazon one day with a supervisor and pick out their school supplies,” Diericks said, noting this also helps the families who may not be able to afford the items.
Henning said overall, migrant summer school highlights Waterloo’s student diversity, adding it is one of 12 districts in the state with a significant migrant student population.
“Not all of our kids come from the same background, not all of them have the same resources,” he said. “I think the more that we can tailor what we do here for kids individuality, the more success we will have.”