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State migrant ed program largest in the country
Migrant Education Director II Manuel Nunez goes over the preperations taking place inside the Artesi Migrant Child Development Center in French Camp on Friday. - photo by HIME ROMERO

The regular school year in Manteca Unified runs from August to May. That’s the norm for the majority of the 23,000-plus elementary and high school students in the district. That holds true for other public schools in San Joaquin County as well.

But for nearly 3,000 students countywide — roughly 120-150 of them in Manteca Unified — school runs from March to November/December. This is the normal academic year for students in the Migrant Education Program (MEP).

Funded solely by federal money, MEP was made possible by the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act. Administered in all 50 states, plus Puerto Rico and District of Columbia, MEP is “designed to support high quality and comprehensive educational programs for migrant children to help reduce the educational disruption and other problems that result from repeated moves.”

There are no state funds involved in California’s Migrant Education Program which, at more than 200,000 in total enrollment, is the largest in the United States. In addition to that are approximately 97,000 migrant students enrolled in summer/inter-session classes.

Where are these migrant students enrolled?

There are some migrant students attending other school campuses in Manteca Unified but the majority of them are enrolled at East Union High and French Camp Elementary. At French Camp, the migrant students have their own school track — the Fuschia track, said office manager Roxana Salgado.

Most of these students’ families live in the 50 housing units at the migrant camp on Matthews Road, which are provided by the Housing Authority of San Joaquin County. The families pay rent to stay there.

“We have an office in one of the (camp) units, and two tutoring centers. We have four but two are being renovated,” said Manuel Nunez, director of MEP Region 23.

They usually hire tutors to teach at the after-school tutoring centers, “but we also have staff to help with the tutoring as well,” he said.

“The reason we have an office and tutoring centers at the camp is that we have a  large number of migrant students that live at the camps, and so we have access to providing them after-school tutoring services within the camp setting,” Nunez added.

The program is available to qualified Kindergarden- to 12th-grade students.

Migrant students also may be enrolled at any school within the school district and qualify for migrant services. Attending regular school and the tutoring services are all offered free of charge.

Nunez said migrant students do not have to be residents of the French Camp migrant camp.

“Those camps close between November and March, so they just actually opened on March 17, and will be open all the way to November-December,” said Nunez, referring to the school-year span that the migrant students are enrolled in San Joaquin County.

There are no migrant students in the wintertime when the camps are closed and the families go back home to Mexico or move on to other areas, he said.

How MEP eligibility is established

Nunez said there are several ways that they use to identify students who are eligible for migrant services. These include:

• referrals from school site staff to MEP staff of possible migrant students;

• recruitment at the camps as families return to seek housing;

• referrals from families of potential migrant families, and;

• recruitment efforts at local events.

“In all cases, the referrals are communicated to our trained recruitment team who do a follow-up interview with the family to verify if the family meets all of the eligibility factors,” Nunez explained.

Migrant education funding

Here’s how federal funds for Migrant Education Program are funneled down to local school districts.

The funding starts with a federal grant that is administered by the California Department of Education, explained Nunez.

In the state are service regions –Region 23 in San Joaquin County of which Nunez is the director.

“The region is allocated monies by the state according to the number of migrant students in the region. The region then allocates monies to the districts, also according to the number of migrant students in the districts,” he said.

Services are provided based on an agreement inked between the federal program and the school district. In addition to migrant education, the contract also covers “supplemental services... that are above and beyond the local educational services provided in the district,” Nunez said.