As dusk settled on the Academies of RCMA, students sat in classrooms while more than 150 moms and dads filled long tables inside the cafeteria.
It was Parents Night at the Wimauma charter school and even though many worked all day picking crops in nearby fields, they stayed for the whole hour.
Teachers and administrators at the coveted school say they have more freedom than most traditional public schools to develop programs that address the needs of their mostly Hispanic population.
But the school doesn’t limit its help to students. Founded by the Redlands Christian Migrant Association, it’s committed to reaching out to parents, as well.
“They know they struggle,’’ said Marcela Estevez, the academies’ parent liaison and director of student affairs. “They work hard. But they know the school. They rely on the school.’’
More than 80 percent of RCMA’s 258 middle and elementary students live in households headed by single moms, and 35 percent to 40 percent are from migrant farmworker families, Estevez said. Practically every child qualifies for free breakfast and lunch.
RCMA, which is located behind the Beth-El Farmworker Ministry, focuses on students’ basic needs first, such as food and clothing. Then the goal is on acclimating them to English while still celebrating their culture, said Mark Haggett, director of the academies.
It takes creativity and ingenuity, Haggett said. RCMA receives about $5,300 in state funding for each student – a few thousand less than district schools get once construction costs are considered. To make up for it, the school actively seeks donations. Continue Reading →