To assist parents who have to head back to work, but have young children entering a new school year in any kind of virtual setting, YMCA of Delaware is launching a new program focused on giving them a learning space outside the house.
"Normally, at this time of year, we open about 45 before- and after-school programs across the state, and since most of our school districts are going virtual--for the first few weeks, at least--we've instead started to stand up [statewide] learning centers that will support the virtual learning of students and allow parents to go to work," said president and CEO Deborah Bagatta-Bowles.
The YMCA will be looking to open up one of these surrogate classrooms in each of their locations, and additionally a location at at least one school in each district. The Learning Support Centers would provide a full-day of school, with children attending with their own devices and interacting with their teachers virtually while YMCA staff is their to keep children focused and on-track.
"it'll be full-day, so it's really supporting working parents who need just a little support to get through these few weeks. It's going to be tough for folks that have to go back to work," she said. "Students will be taught by their teachers on their on their devices, as they were in the spring. The difference will be that we will be there to support that learning, and make sure that they get on online and get their assignments done, and do the best we can to help these families."
Bagatta-Bowles said, in terms of pandemic response, the services aren't a very far departure from what they've already been providing. The YMCA of Delaware was one of the locations providing childcare services for essential workers, and she said all those safety protocols would remain in place.
"We've had some experience. We've been working with children for the last five months in the pandemic, so all of the safety protocols and the small groups...that really served us well, kept the children and the staff healthy, we'll do all of that same stuff as we go into the fall of the fall season," Bagatta-Bowles said. "It's on a much bigger scale because we'll probably be in nearly every school district. And we're not so sure how long that's going to be it. Might be six weeks, it could be for the rest of the semester."
The primary focus is safety, but just as important is maintaining the level of education being received by students attending virtual classroom settings. The YMCA is happy to be able to provide this setting and assist those in need.
"It's important because we support families, we support children. We don't want to see any any learning loss during this time period," she said. "We're really empathetic to the plight of families right now, with no traditional school. It's really been the mark of what we've done the last few months, just to look around, [ask] what do people need, and we're going to jump in and do it...We're excited, the kids are excited, the parents are excited just to get the children out of the house, and give a little bit of a feeling of normal. It's not quite back to school in the typical way but it'll have that feel."