Delivering meals

Lake County School District delivers meals to students last spring with the help of a Downstream Construction vehicle. The district hopes to use the Mobile Learning Center to continue distributing meals.

In an effort to address educational challenges made worse by the pandemic, the Lake County School District is creating a new Mobile Learning Center with funds from a $492,000 state grant.

In September, Governor Jared Polis announced the new Response, Innovation, and Student Equity (RISE) grant program designed to help public education institutions in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lake County School District (LCSD) was named as a recipient of the grant program which calls for solutions that address persistent issues likely to extend beyond the pandemic.

LCSD Healthy Schools Director Carlye Sayler, seeing the grant as a chance to address some of the district’s preexisting issues that have been worsened by the pandemic, applied for the funds.

LCSD worked with its partner organizations in the community, including Full Circle of Lake County and Lake County Build a Generation, to identify some of the most pressing needs and how to address them. They decided on the Mobile Learning Center.

The Mobile Learning Center will be housed in a converted school bus, allowing LCSD to deliver resources, technical support, and educational help to students throughout the county, Sayler told the Herald.

Even before COVID-19, inequitable internet access among Lake County students had been a problem. One of the key struggles the district has faced while shifting to remote learning is the lack of universal and reliable internet access, Sayler said.

To help address this, the Mobile Learning Center will house a mobile Wi-Fi network that students can connect to from their homes in order to complete school work.

In addition to internet access, the Mobile Learning Center will offer technical assistance and support for students and families as they navigate the increased use of devices required for remote learning. It will also host a mobile library, and may be used to help distribute meals through LCSD’s meal delivery program, she said.

Beyond technological and material support, the Mobile Learning Center will be staffed with tutors and educators to help students with school work on-site.

Along with tutors and educators, the center will also incorporate LCSD’s Family Connectors. The program, launched this summer, is made up of six locals, most of whom are bilingual.

Throughout the year, Family Connectors have contacted families to inform them of pandemic-related changes, as well as receive feedback about concerns and struggles those in the community are facing. Combining the Family Connectors program with the Mobile Learning Center will help to maintain the connections the district has fostered, Sayler said.

While developing the idea, LCSD looked to other school districts to find similar models. Though they found examples of other programs offering some of the services to be housed in the Mobile Learning Center, they could not find a model as comprehensive as the one they hope to offer, Sayler said.

“We often need to create innovative solutions,” she said, detailing the issues the Mobile Learning Center is designed to help overcome.

The RISE Grant program is meant to help school districts address problems created by the pandemic with solutions that can carry over into a post-COVID world. To this end, the Mobile Learning Center will stay active throughout the pandemic and beyond, Sayler explained.

On Nov. 10, LCSD was awarded $492,149 as part of the program’s first round of funding. In total, 13 educational institutions were awarded $14.1 million under the new program.

Though LCSD has been awarded the funding, the plan is still in development, and the district hopes to launch the program in the spring of 2021, Sayler said.

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