Support Hard-to-Reach Students With Mobile Learning Labs
Equitable learning involves getting education where needed, even if students need help to reach their primary school destination. According to district leaders during the edLeader Panel, “How Mobile Learning Labs Are Supporting Hard-to-Reach Students,” the education system ensures that students have the support necessary for their educational growth.
Baltimore County Public Schools (MD) and The School District of Osceola County (FL) are leading the way with their innovative use of school buses to provide safe, secure places for students without homes to receive tutoring and homework help, essential healthcare services, and healthy meals.
In Osceola County, the idea for an innovative bus program came from a student project focusing on supporting the high population of students experiencing homelessness in the county. The learning labs would go to high-poverty areas and provide students with internet access with computers designed so that students could do their homework or catch up on missed assignments.
Recognizing that the buses have the potential to change students’ lives, the district expanded the program to include health services and healthy habits programs.
Digging deeper into recently created community schools in Baltimore County, the district discovered several barriers preventing families from accessing the resources at the school: families needed to reside closer to the school and have the means to get to those levels of support they were providing.
The mobile learning labs grew from their shared decision-making team, comprising staff, families, community members, and students, to focus on taking these resources from fixed buildings into the community. In addition, their buses expanded to include wraparound services, including a food pantry, health screening for families, and tutoring and counseling for students.
Challenges and Recommendations
There were challenges to ensuring that students and families accessed the services provided by the mobile learning labs. The panelists emphasized that for the programs to reach students in need, it was essential to break barriers in establishing relationships with those in the community. Also, staying focused on designing a program that addresses the community’s needs created connections between the districts and the students they serve.
The panelists also recommend partnerships with local organizations and health services, expanding the expertise of the programs with staff and teachers in the districts. Finally, consistent scheduling, including backup drivers, notification systems, and contingency plans in case of bus repairs assures the reliability of the valuable services provided by the mobile learning labs.
Osceola and Baltimore school districts know that supporting students and families is the community’s responsibility. Both districts have shared visions and teamwork to help students and families outside the school day.
They understand that students may not come to school on any given day for various reasons, and the labs provide additional after-school and weekend support to ensure students stay caught up with classmates and have healthy minds and bodies. Michele Stansbury of Baltimore County Public Schools emphasized, “We’re really trying to take what the school offers on a regular school day and add a school building out into the community itself.”
Learn more about this edWeb broadcast, “How Mobile Learning Labs Are Supporting Hard-to-Reach Students,” sponsored by Varsity Tutors.
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Blog post by Eileen Belastock, based on this edLeader Panel