For children and families, one of the many challenges of life during the pandemic has proved to be distance learning. Not only is it trickier for children to learn and participate, it’s difficult for working par¬ents to support their children with logging on to online classes at different times – on top of managing their own jobs and responsibilities.
The Santa Monica Family YMCA began implementing their Distance Learning Program in August, when the (virtual) school year began. So far, they’ve received “great feed¬back” from parents, Chief Operations Officer Ana-Marie Schaefer says. “It’s been a really big relief for families to be able to bring their kids here. And,” she adds, “it’s also been really good for the children, for their social and emotional resilience.”
The program provides classroom pods of 12 students with two staff members assigned to each room to supervise online learning and assist with homework and exercises. The staff hopes the program will combat pandemic-related learning loss: “They’re more engaged with their schoolwork, because they have their peers [there],” Ana-Marie describes.
With 50 children enrolled, the program is currently at capacity within social distancing guidelines. However, Ana-Marie explains, they are working to expand the program to accommodate more learners, as well as looking for funding so that more low-income families can participate.
After closing their facilities, including their licensed preschool in March, the Santa Monica YMCA was allowed to re-open to offer childcare for essential workers in April. They also ran a summer day camp before turning to the Distance Learning Program, which builds off their previous youth development programming.
YMCAs across the country are also implementing the same sup¬port. “We want to make sure that the children emerge feeling healthy and strong. [and] provide some consistency for them,” Ana-Marie describes. The Santa Monica YMCA plans to run the program through the entire school year. “We’re trying to be very flexible and prepare for how to serve the community,” Ana-Marie comments. “Every day, we show up to strengthen our community for children, adults, seniors, and families. And, we want to make sure that we give everyone the opportunity they need to reach their full potential.”
For more information on the program, call Ana-Marie Schaefer at 310-393-2721.
By Anne Wallentine