Chantell Soto, Adriana Galvan and Kendra Rosales were hard at work on a recent weekday.
Armed with duct tape and foam pool noodles, the three students were making a race track for their marbles in the stairway of Plainview's old high school building. Some of the noodles were sliced in half, looping around like a roller coaster. They were trying to make the track stretch all the way down the railing of the stairway.
"We're trying to make it go faster," Adriana said.
They were working on a project for physics. But it wasn't for an ordinary summer school program. It was for a program specifically designed for students like them: children of migrant workers.
The Plainview-Elgin-Millville school district is one of a handful throughout the state that receives funding to provide a summer school program for children of migrant workers. Most of the kids in Plainview's program come from Texas to work at the food-processing plant in Plainview.
There are similar Migrant Education Programs throughout the country. The program has been in Plainview for several years. Before that, it was in Rochester until the Seneca Plant closed down.
Since migrants leave Texas before the school year ends, and may not return until after a new year starts, it's easy for students to fall behind. The Migrant Education Program is meant to help mitigate that lost learning.
"These families will go where the work happens to be. But due to the climate and the seasons, the work doesn't necessarily line up perfectly with the way the school year operates," said Nate Walbruch, who used to be involved with the program before recently moving to a position in Rochester. “What ends up happening is these students’ education ends up getting interrupted."
So, local teachers help the students catch up. They work on reading skills. They work on math skills.
This branch of the program is located in Minnesota, but they coordinate with Texas to make sure the students are meeting the standards they need to graduate. Walbruch said Plainview is an approved site for Texas' Star Testing.
In another room of the old Plainview High School, three slightly older students were working at computers. One of them, 15-year-old Maria Galvan, said she should be able to start on time with her school down in Eagle Pass, Texas, since she can do school online. However, she said she's been able to get more help from the teachers in Minnesota than she does in Texas.
"I want to graduate early; that's my plan," she said.
Maria wants to return to the Migrant Education Program next summer, but she says her parents want her to go to work at Lakeside Foods. She knows that would help her family financially. Mike Ongie, who coordinates the Migrant Education Program, said it's not uncommon for older students to go work with their parents rather than attending the summer school program.
"Both my parents need the money right now, and I would love to help them with the payment and all that," Maria said.
Walbruch said the program benefits local teachers, by giving them job opportunities in the summer, and that the program helps migrant families by giving them a stronger connection to the community.
“Having these migrant workers more connected to the community — even if it’s only through the school — is a real benefit," he said. "It becomes more of a home because they know there’s a set of people that care about their kids at least."