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The word is out

The Medford School District’s migrant summer school program debuted six years ago with only six elementary students. Now it serves more than 300 kindergarten through 12th-graders at five locations.

MSD and Southern Oregon Education Service District officials attribute the growth to more attractive programming and better outreach to migrant families in the area.

"Our actual migrant numbers haven’t increased, but the number choosing to attend summer school has,” said Terri Dahl, the district’s supervisor of federal programs and school improvement.

This summer, the district is serving 320 migrant students, compared to 221 last summer and 198 in 2015.

Dahl explained that each student’s situation is different. Some are transferring from another district, some disappeared and came back, and some are returning to the area from Mexico, Pakistan or another country.

But they all qualify for migrant services because their families moved across district lines to obtain seasonal, agricultural labor, explained Charlie Bauer, the SOESD’s migrant education coordinator.

“Most of their parents are phenomenally responsible, so it’s not that they are just missing school ... but (that) the movement disrupts their education,” Bauer said.

For example, one Phoenix Elementary student, who hadn’t been taught fractions yet, moved mid-year to Table Rock Elementary School where fractions had already been taught, Bauer said.

Summer school and other interventions throughout the school year allow migrant students to make up these gaps in their education, he said.

When he joined the SOESD 14 years ago, there were only 16 kids in Jackson, Josephine and Klamath counties being served by federally funded migrant programs, he said.

“Last year, there were 770,” Bauer said. “We’ve seen a slow, steady climb, and it really has been a collaborative effort by the SOESD and the districts.”

About 650 migrant students live in the Medford School District, and about half are participating in summer school this year.

“We’ve all worked hard to make the summer schools effective and fun, and parents have really caught on, and students aren’t resistant because they get that it will be fun, and that’s created a lot more interest,” Bauer said.

This year, the Medford School District has partnered with several community groups, including Bugs ’R Us, ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum, Oregon State University’s Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center and others to provide students with interactive activities and fun field-trip opportunities, said district spokeswoman Natalie Hurd.

So far this year, students have visited Crater Lake and Wildlife Safari, made nutritious smoothies on a "blender bike," planted vegetables and flowers in their school gardens and launched rockets.

The district has five, federally funded migrant programs happening this summer, including a three-week kindergarten preview program at Wilson Elementary, a five-week program for kindergarten through second-grade students at Jackson Elementary, and a six-week program for third- through fifth-graders at Jefferson Elementary.

McLoughlin Middle School also is hosting a seven-week program for incoming seventh- and eighth-graders with English language arts and science classes. And at Central Medford High School, high school students can take English, health and language and literacy skill development classes or work on credit retrieval online, Dahl said.

Before choosing what classes to offer, Dahl looked at each high school migrant student’s transcript to determine which classes were most needed by those students.

More than 40 people, including certified and classified staff, ELL teachers, special education teachers, a nurse and nursing assistant, are working this summer to staff the migrant summer school program, Dahl said.

The district’s Parent Action Committee also played a role in spreading the word about migrant summer school, Dahl said. The PAC meets regularly to decide how migrant funds should be spent, inform parents about the supports and services available to them and get feedback regarding summer school and other interventions.

The district’s migrant graduation rate jumped from 67.3 percent in 2013-14 to 69.6 percent in 2015-16, according to Oregon Department of Education report cards, and summer school definitely contributed to this increase, as it helped get students on track to graduate, Dahl said.

— Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or tthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.

Evelyn Villa, 15, of Medford, rides a 'blender bike' Thursday during migrant summer school at Central Medford High. [Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch]