FLINT — During the pandemic it has been difficult for school district to fulfill all the needs of students and their families, but the Genesee Intermediate School District (GISD) now has a new high-tech, mobile resource site to help meet the unique needs of students and families.
Local educators have been working with community leaders to come up with a tool to provide more accessible community support across the county. Thanks to their vision, commitment, and collaboration, the Mobile Education Lab (MEL) will soon be on the road around Genesee County.
MEL is a school bus taken from the GISD fleet and it has been completely renovated and outfitted with amenities such as a generator, Wi-Fi, laptop computers, a printer, a restroom, and a small private meeting room. It also features customized storage and shelving throughout, which will be stocked with materials on housing and food resource information, mental health and healthcare access, and educational resources ranging from Pre-K to post-secondary.
Shelf-stable food items, children’s books, toys, and personal care products will also be available to meet the wide range of immediate needs families may have.
“The purpose of the MEL is to provide students and families with access to resources that can help combat some of the barriers many face due to the lack of transportation, financial resources, and awareness of available services and support,” said Renae Galsterer, MEL Coordinator. “These factors often interfere with a family’s ability to take advantage of health screenings, literacy, and early childhood programs, just some of the things that could also impact students’ education.”
The Mobile Education Lab is a school bus that has been transformed both outside and inside thanks to a generous $130,000 grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Dec. 15.
GISD Superintendent Lisa Hagel spoke at the ribbon-cutting and she thanks the Mott Foundation for its support with the project. She also discussed how MEL came about and what purposes it can be used for.
She said the Mobile Education Lab was the result of a series of meetings of the Genesee County Superintendent’s Task Force who were studying challenges facing many of families in the county and barriers stopping Genesee County students and families from being successful academically, socially and emotionally.
“Very quickly a parent resource center rose to the surface as a way students could conquer challenges to being successful, but we wanted a resource that wasn’t a place, so MEL rose to the surface,” said Hagel. “From there our Innovation Crew from the Genesee Intermediate School District took that concept and brought it to life. The goal of MEL is to provide services to children parents and entire family units from before birth through pre-school, elementary and all the way into college…and then the sky is the limit.”
Hagel said MEL allows the GISD to partner with parents and offer playgroups, scholarship opportunities and tutoring, in addition to making everyone in the family successful in ways the district never thought possible before.
“At a time when many people feel distanced and isolated, the Mobile Education Lab will provide a way for the GISD to connect with children and families in a meaningful way,” said Jennifer Liversedge, program officer at the Mott Foundation. “GISD staff will meet families in the community, helping with challenges they’re facing during remote learning and connecting them with other supports and resources they need to be successful.”
John Krolewski, superintendent of Bendle schools and a member of the Superintendent Task Force, said he too thinks there are many possibilities and uses for MEL. He said he agreed with Hagel that school districts are only limited by their imagination and creativity when it comes to uses for the mobile lab.
“As school administrators we are still responsible for carrying out a lot of things during this pandemic in terms of special education, meetings, meeting with parents to talk about academic,” said Krolewski, who spoke at the ribbon cutting. “So, instead of parents having to come to the buildings now we can bring the meeting to the parents.”
He said he foresees MEL being able to offer one-on-one tutoring and school district counselors and social workers will have a chance to come in and work with students instead of having these people come to the building. Students struggling with Wi-fi access will also be able to benefit from MEL, which is equipped with its own Wi-fi hotspot.
“The possibility now exists for that to happen right outside their homes,” said Krolewski.
The use of MEL will be available to all Genesee County school districts, said Hagel.
“We really want to be able to meet as many needs as we can in the community,” said Galsterer. “If people need food, we want to be able to provide that. If they want to know about preschool programs, tutoring, or even scholarships available for college, we want to be able to help with that as well. I have been meeting with district superintendents to find out what the needs are in their areas, and once we have that information our goal is to bring the bus to them and provide those resources to the community.”
For more information about MEL and available services, or to schedule a MEL site visit please contact Galsterer at 810-591-3384.