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As students settle in to remote learning routines and parents work out how to make it work with their work schedules, the YMCA of Northern Colorado is offering a helping hand.
Y locations across the region are offering remote learning and child care programs for kindergarten through fifth grade students in St. Vrain Valley, Boulder Valley, Weld RE-5J and Thompson school districts.
It is just the latest adjustment the nonprofit has made to help kids and families as the coronavirus pandemic continues to change lives and add stress.
The YMCA within days of schools closing in March pivoted from after-school programs to emergency child care. Then when school wrapped up for the year, it pivoted to summer camps. Now the pivot is to extended-day care that offers support to kids and assurances to parents that their children are in a safe environment, said Lisa Swainey, vice president of community programs for the YMCA of Northern Colorado.
“Parents are so appreciative. I think they’re just really thankful to have that stress taken away so they can go to work and know not only does their child have a place to be, but the learning is supported,” she said.
While staff isn’t doing the “teaching,” they are there for technical issues, to help kids navigate from one virtual classroom to another and to provide that little bit of spelling or math help when needed, Swainey said.
The YMCA also has a preschool program, so families with school-age children and younger siblings have one location for their kids.
In addition, the Y is offering enrichment such as STEM activities and a ton of library books for extra learning, Swainey said.
But that doesn’t mean learning is the only focus.
“We’re really just trying to provide an environment where we’re not only meeting academic needs right now, but the social-emotional piece,” she said. “It’s a really stressful climate right now and we want kids to be able to be kids.”
That means on top of providing a place for kids to be from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, the program at the Ed & Ruth Lehman YMCA in Longmont is keeping the focus on fun when the school day ends, letting kids play games and sports, take a dip in the pool and otherwise just have some fun, she said.
Fun and learning don’t come at the cost of safety, however. A number of precautions are in place for the program, including limited access to the building, daily health checks for students and staff and a requirement for all to wear masks.
The YMCA also works closely with Boulder County Public Health and receives constant guidance on staying in compliance with coronavirus safety practices and if its capacity is set correctly, Swainey said. Right now the program is seeing about 20 kids a day, but it can accommodate up to 100, she said.
Since its switch from after-school care to full-day care in March and throughout the summer, the YMCA has not seen a coronavirus case in its school-age programs, Swainey said.
The cost for the remote learning and child care program in Longmont is typically $250 a week, she said, but the Y participates in the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program and has a financial assistance program.
“We really don’t turn anybody away,” she said. “The mission of the YMCA is to ensure every child has care. We will work with families and meet them where they are.”
In St. Vrain Valley School District, parents also can turn to Community Schools to ensure their children are supervised and on track with remote learning.
Community Schools are open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. at all of the district’s 27 elementary schools for students in kindergarten through fifth grade and preschool care at seven sites, according to Kerri McDermid, the district’s chief communications and global impact officer.
Community Schools tuition is $30 a day, with a sliding scale available for families experiencing financial difficulties, according to the district’s website. Registration fees are waived for the first semester.
Enrollment as of Thursday stood at 918 K-5 students and 95 pre-K students, according to McDermid.
Susan Zimmerman, the district coordinator for Community Schools, in a statement, said, "It has been amazing to be part of our student’s return to school. Offering this care opportunity for our parents and students in all of our elementary schools has been wonderful and we are fortunate to have an incredible department and district supporting this effort."