Worcester To Use $1M Grant On Mobile Learning Units; Two 31-Foot RVs Will Be Purchased

SNOW HILL – A $1 million grant will enable the school system to begin bringing the classroom to the community with new mobile learning units.

With a $1 million grant from the state, Worcester County Public Schools will be purchasing two customized recreational vehicles that will allow educators in Pocomoke and Snow Hill to visit students in their own neighborhoods.

“We’re really excited,” said Jenifer Rayne, principal of Pocomoke High School. “We’re basically going to be bringing the school and classroom to the community.”

Gov. Larry Hogan last week announced $10 million in grant awards through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act. The grants were awarded to school systems that demonstrated unique strategies to address academic accessibility as a result of the pandemic.

“An essential part of Maryland’s recovery depends on giving every single child in Maryland the ability to safely return for in-person learning,” Hogan said in a press release. “These funds will help provide support for our students who have suffered most in the pandemic, and help address learning loss experienced during virtual learning.”

Among the grant recipients highlighted by Hogan was Worcester County Public Schools. The school system received $1 million to help launch “Worcester on Wheels.” Rayne said the funding would allow the school system to purchase two fully customized RVs that will be able to visit Snow Hill Middle School, Snow High School, Pocomoke Middle School and Pocomoke High School students in their own communities. She said poverty rates were high at those schools and that transportation was often an issue.

“We have a lot of families that lack transportation or don’t view the brick and mortar school building as the center of the community,” she said, adding that with the RVs educators could visit individual neighborhoods. “I think we can reach more families.”

With the RVs, they’ll offer events like “Tailgate Tutoring Tuesdays” and “Money Management Mondays,” as well as literacy events and pop-up book giveaways.

“Essentially we’re using this as another activity to eliminate barriers and increase access to all families,” she said.

Rayne said the project was developed collaboratively by the schools involved to increase community access, a need that became increasingly apparent during COVID. Though some community outreach events have been taking place for years, educators realized there was a need for more.

“We really synthesized those ideas and wrapped it up into a mobile unit that can accomplish all of those,” Rayne said.

The 31-foot RVs will be stocked with learning materials, technology, an outdoor kitchen and built-in WiFi access.

“I’m excited because it’s very sustainable,” Rayne said. “It’s something we’ll be able to use for a long time.”

Other grant recipients included Baltimore City Public Schools, Carroll County Public Schools, Children’s Guild, Harford County Public Schools, Montgomery County Public Schools, Prince George’s County Public Schools, Queen Anne’s County Public Schools, Reid Temple Christian Academy and Wicomico County Public Schools.

Wicomico County Public Schools received $1 million to develop distance learning opportunities for its students. In a school board meeting Tuesday, Chief Academic Officer Rick Briggs said the money will be used to outfit 20 classrooms with technology that facilitates both in-person and remote learning.

“You can think of it as hybrid learning on steroids,” he said.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.