young girl working at desk

This article is part of a new series about how IMESD Departments have adapted their work during the COVID-19 emergency.

Worldwide, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed many things about the ways people work. For the IMESD’s Migrant Education Program employees, this has meant different ways to communicate with and engage students and families. The Migrant Education Program (MEP) is a federally funded program that provides supplemental education and support services to eligible migrant children to help them overcome the educational disruptions and disadvantages they face. Many of these families are dual language speakers.

According to Eric Volger, Migrant Education Coordinator, staff in the program have pivoted to take on different tasks.

Starting with the youngest learners, Marisol Valencia, the program’s Pre-K Specialist, assembled age-specific “Distance Learning for All” packets that are delivered along with meals to homes. She also arranged for preschool bilingual magazines to be delivered. One of IMESD’s Speech-Language Pathologists, Jeannette Tricker, has provided MEP pre-school students with monthly Spanish/English language development activities. Edelmira “Connie” Garcia has assembled Pre-K “Distance Learning for All” packets for preschoolers in Morrow County.

Volger said three other staff members were re-deployed to assist with providing meals at Sam Boardman Elementary. Many MEP staff have been busy calling and emailing families in Irrigon and Boardman to let them know about meal times/locations and the availability of Chromebooks for their children.

Obdulia “Abby” Munoz is the MEP’s Lead Recruiter/Parent Involvement Specialist, and she has worked on various tasks from Spanish translating for Umatilla School  District to purchasing staple food items and making and delivering food kits to families in Boardman and Hermiston areas.

And what about MEP services for Class of 2020 seniors? Brenda Flores and Kris Mulvihill, Migrant Education Specialists, created surveys to gather information from their students. They asked questions such as “Do you know what you need to stay on track to graduate?, “Is Distance Learning working well enough for you?” and “Does your family need more support besides academics?” Flores and Mulvihill have worked with dual language teachers at districts to help contact migrant students via phone, email and apps like “Remind.” Flores said they are constantly sending students updates on what is going at their schools. She also said they have been concerned about a few students who previously expressed they wanted to drop out and work, but they are encouraging them to continue their education.

Other challenges for students learning at home are lack of WiFi access, no quiet space where they can concentrate and helping parents with chores or taking care of siblings. "I think it’s great that districts have been looking for equitable solutions for our students and families! I hope we continue to strive for equity even when this pandemic is gone. It would be great to have long term solutions that can change and better our education system," Flores said.

Even before COVID-19, much of the work of the Migrant Education Program team focused on connection, connection, connection. Volger said, “That hasn’t changed, but it’s more important now than ever to ensure that our families have what they need so our students can stay the course and continue on their paths to success.”