Learning Express bus to help Collier County students

Reporter: Taylor Wirtz Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:

The Collier County School District is looking at turning an old school bus into a complete mobile learning center to reach its most vulnerable student populations.

CCSD has often spoken about how migrant students are the most at-risk population in Collier County. Other areas of outreach have started utilizing a mobile strategy through things like mobile food pantries and vaccine clinics, so many say making education mobile is a natural next step. The District says most of its migrant students come from non-English-speaking homes in impoverished circumstances with little access to books or help with schoolwork, so this mobile model would provide somewhere for children in Immokalee, parts of North Naples and South Naples to go and get the educational help they may need.

The Learning Express bus would provide pre-K literacy classes, out-of-school youth English and life skills classes, parental English classes and homework help. Education professionals say there has always been a large learning gap between migrant communities and other areas of Collier County, so the District having the means to seek out those students in their own communities would be a good way to work towards closing that gap.

“I think anytime you have the opportunity to bring the program or service to the population, particularly when transportation may be a restriction, is always a positive,” said Thomas Felke, associate dean of academics at Florida Gulf Coast University’s Marieb College of Health & Human Services. “Particularly an area like Immokalee, where you have some other issues, particularly related to trust, trying to get involved with the school district is really important.”

Some say the ability of the bus to host students as young as those in pre-K would help it to also function as a sort of low cost childcare for migrant parents. CCSD says qualifying students for the migrant education program itself is a difficult task that requires lots of meetings with parents out in their communities. This bus would also allow them to host those meetings in an air-conditioned space where the students could participate in educational activities while they wait.

Those working and living in Immokalee say the bus would be a valuable resource for families there.

“I feel like there’s always been a need there that’s present,” said Daniel Martinez, director of the High School Tutor Corps program at the Guadalupe Center. “The more resources available are going to better help the students here in Immokalee, no matter the school, no matter the area, there’s always a need for them to improve. Especially for younger families and those families who don’t have transportation and want that additional resource for their students.”

The renovations to the bus would cost more than $72,000, which would be funded through migrant grant funds, Title IV grant funds and community donations. The Collier County School Board is set to vote on approving the Learning Express at its Tuesday 4 p.m. board meeting.

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