DCBOE begins summer migrant program

Published 5:15 pm Friday, June 9, 2017

Migrant children play during recess, a nice break from the classroom.

73 kids filled the old West Bainbridge Elementary building on Friday morning, but they were not the typical Bainbridge students. Some have been a part of the Decatur County School System, but some come from other parts of the country.

This week, Decatur County Schools kicked off their migrant summer school program that aims to help educate the children of migrant workers while they are in Decatur County.

“They’re here because of sweet corn and tomatoes,” said lead teacher Troy Thomas. “The majority of them come from Amrapali or Belle Glade, Florida.”

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Children who are in the Decatur County System can still receive migrant status if their parents are involved with the farming industry and are moved within three years because of that.

The program hosts’ kids from as young as pre-k to eighth grade, but their education levels run the gamut according to Thomas.

The program is mostly Hispanic and Haitian children, yet luckily the program does not have too many issues with language barriers.

“It’s a rare occasion when the children don’t speak the language,” said Thomas. “Where we have the biggest issue, is with the little ones because their household is speaking Spanish.”

“If we have one that speaks creole because Haitians speak creole, that’s where we run into a little bit of a problem,” added Thomas.

The program employs four students from the high school who speak English as a second language to help bridge the gap if there is a language issue.

One problem the program does have is in funding. According to Thomas, funding is based off of participation, the more children involved means more funding and vice versa.

Over the past few years, the program has seen a decline in those involved.

The program used to see around 200 kids enrolled. Over the past two years, Thomas thinks that immigration fears may have kept some families away, but also the housing provision has caused a decline in children involved.

“We are given federal and state funds, and then we can decide how we use those funds,” said Thomas. “If we have a large population of migrant who are here with us during the regular school year we can take all of our funds and put them for migrant services for those kids during the school year… or we can take part of those funds and put them toward summer school.”

The program in Decatur County has been applauded around the state for migrant education programs. The programs are gauged based off of pre and post-testing.

Keeping those test scores up will be a challenge this year. The program used to run six weeks, but due to funding issues the program has caused the program to drop to two weeks.

This year, the program had to combine classes. The numbers within the classes vary, but combining the classes gives the program the ability to focus on getting the age to match with the grade they should be at.