For parents, several factors, such as safety and quality of learning, played into the decision of whether to send their children back to school.
But for some, the decision hinged on child care. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County is helping with that.
With a donation from the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, the organization is providing space for about 252 students to learn with Sarasota County School District’s remote learning option.
Through the Great Futures Academy School-Year Program, students ages 6 through 18 are able to receive educational support during the school day and in after-school programs.
Director of Communications Sara Bealor said the program will help families have options.
“Some parents aren’t ready to send their child back to school just yet due to looming health or safety concerns, but they aren’t able to stay at home with their child due to work schedules,” Bealor said. “Some parents are concerned about their child’s ability to successfully connect with their teachers in virtual classrooms, and a number of households don’t have internet or access to technology to support remote learning.”
A remote learning session runs from 7:45 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. for students ages 6 to 12 and from 7:15 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for students ages 13 to 18, to ensure students have access to Wi-Fi and staff who can provide assistance.
“It gives parents who need to work but weren’t ready for their kids to go back brick-and-mortar the ability for their children to be in a smaller setting and still have a successful learning environment,” Vice President of Operations Dawn Page said.
The after school support session of the program will provide students with youth development activities designed to ensure they excel in school, become leaders, adopt healthy habits and plan for success after high school graduation, Bealor said.
For example, students will participate in programs focused on fine and digital arts, robotics, culinary arts and leadership development training, to name a few.
Students will be placed in the clubs’ gyms and spaced at a minimum of 6 feet apart. They are assigned a group and a staff member for the duration of the program to help minimize exposure.
While at the club, students and staff are required to wear face masks, and students are required to have their temperatures checked upon entry.
Students are asked to bring their own district-provided laptops and headphones and to participate in their remote classes throughout the day. Although there is staff to help with technical issues, Page said the students will drive their own education.
“The school district has its own guidelines where the students are supposed to do everything on their own,” she said. “They’re supposed to ask their teacher questions directly. We are just there to make sure they’re being supervised.”
Although it has been a rush to get the program up and running, Page said she’s proud to be able to provide this service to the community.
“Our biggest thing that we want for our kids is to bring back a sense of normalcy,” Page said. “These past six months have been crazy for all of us, and not going back to school is not normal, but the club, that’s something that’s familiar, and it’s a place that kids know is safe for them.”