“For us, we knew in the fall that we were going to have some kind of virtual learning environment and that it was just not going to be possible for us to juggle both and do both successfully,” Chittester says.
Her son’s school district partnered with the YMCA of greater Cleveland to promote Y Cares Learning and Enrichment Centers. They provide a safe and structured learning environment that allows students to attend virtual classes while parents return to work. Ana Thomas is the vice president of youth development at the YMCA. She says parents across 10 northeast Ohio area school districts are taking advantage of the program.
“This is a very unusual time, and we want this to be one less thing that parents need to worry about they know that their kid is somewhere safe and supportive and doing what they need to do for their academic learning during the day so parents can take care of everything else that they’re responsible for.”
Chittester says although her son isn’t in a typical school setting, the social interaction with other students makes days feel a bit more “normal.”
“For our son to be around friends, his personality has been great. I mean, he’s very happy to see his friends. I don’t think any of us realized how much was missing,” Chittester says.
The schools provide the devices, and the YMCA provides the WiFi, charging stations, support staff and an environment conducive to learning.
“We are working with each school district to figure out what classes each young person supposed to be in a lunch break and then again in the afternoon, and the other day, I was watching a student do gym on his computer, and he was doing his jumping jacks in front of the laptop,” Thomas says.
Thomas says although the corona virus has presented new challenges, it also a has given them a new opportunity to meet community need by making Y Cares accessible to those who need it most.
“We’ve gone after grant dollars. We accept publicly-funded child care. We provide scholarships. So we want to make sure that Y Cares really is for all,” Thomas says.