Education, Farmworker Children

Putting Summer into School

From, Debra Haight, H-P Correspondent, 28 Jul 2011.

Don Campbell / H-P staff Children dance during a Fiesta Campo de Suenos, presented by the Eau Claire Summer Migrant Program on Wednesday at the Eau Claire Public School Student Acitivity Center.

Don Campbell / H-P staff Children dance during a Fiesta Campo de Suenos, presented by the Eau Claire Summer Migrant Program on Wednesday at the Eau Claire Public School Student Acitivity Center.

Migrant programs make most of the season

BERRIEN SPRINGS [MI] – It may be summer, but students are filling the halls of schools in two central Berrien County school districts.

As they do every year, migrant farm worker children are spending time in classrooms in the Berrien Springs and Eau Claire school districts.

“We’re trying to keep kids on grade level but also make it as interactive and fun as we can,” said Tim Keathley, on the staff at Eau Claire schools.

The districts are among several in Southwest Michigan serving the migrant population. Others are Bangor, Coloma, Dowagiac, Hartford, South Haven and Watervliet.

The money comes from federal and state sources.

The programs tend to take summer into account and combine academics with other activities, like field trips and special events. When possible, students can earn high school credits.

Eau Claire schools had a “fiesta night” Wednesday to celebrate the end of the summer program while Berrien Springs had an open house for students and their families.

Sylvester Elementary School Principal Danny Bartz is in charge of the summer migrant program at Berrien Springs, which has had such a program for many years. He said the goal this summer was to do more to emphasize academics for the 120 students, ages 3 to 18.

“This year, we’ve tried to incorporate what we’re doing during the year with our reading and writing program and our safe and civil schools initiative,” he said. “We have ramped up our academic expectations. We’ve really tried to focus on reading and helping them understand more of the English language.

“There’s a fine line in the summer. We still have to have the fun component for the kids with field trips and swimming lessons. We have prize drawings on Fridays. … We want kids to have a better understanding of Berrien Springs as a community and the other communities in the county.”

Berrien Springs serves children from Niles to Bridgman. The program started right after school was out and goes through Friday. After that, a few teachers will go to migrant camps to hand out material.

“We have a staff who have developed strong relationships with families,” Bartz said. “Janie McCoy has been a mainstay over the years. and she and other staff members understand the needs of the families. We provide clothing, take kids to the doctor and do a lot of services.”

On a recent school visit, a couple groups of younger kids were practicing songs for this week’s open house and others were returning from field trips. In each instance, Bartz was swamped by children as he went into classrooms or walked through the halls.

Besides the summer migrant program, this is the second year that Sylvester is hosting the “TELL” program, which stands for “teaching English language learners.”

Bartz said most TELL students are Korean, who come with little or no knowledge of English when family members study at Andrews University.

“We have 60 kids in the summer who study here at Sylvester, at Mars (Elementary School) and at the middle school,” he said.

TELL runs four days a week from July 18 to Aug. 11.

The program is in place during the school year with students coming two days a week before school.

The Eau Claire summer migrant program is the bigger of the two central county programs and is likely the biggest in Berrien County. They serve 160 students at Lybrook Elementary School and more than when teachers go to migrant camps in August. The district also has a night program at the school for older youth.

Source:, “Putting summer into school” by Debra Haight, H-P Correspondent, 28 Jul 2011.


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