Supervised programs help students through remote learning

  • Paris Felogloy, assistant program director of the Youth and Child Care Program at the Greenfield YMCA, works with brothers Jack Herzig, 8, and Sam Herzig, 5, through the nonprofit’s guided learning program. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 9/23/2020 4:29:34 PM

The pandemic and Franklin County schools’ decisions to take different approaches to opening this fall, whether fully remote, fully in-person or a hybrid model, have left parents, especially those who have to work, to figure out who will supervise their children’s education.

At least three organizations and businesses have stepped up with a solution. The YMCA in Greenfield, Ja’Duke Preschool in Montague and Nam’s Taekwondo Center in Greenfield have opened supervised guided learning programs to assist both parents and students.

YMCA Child Care Director Kara Younger said the nonprofit started working with students from Montague early last week and with students from Greenfield later in the week, when Greenfield schools opened fully remotely.

“We have a few kids from a couple of other districts,” Younger said. “We separate them by grade. We’re supervising kindergartners through seventh-graders.”

Younger said the start on Sept. 14 with Montague students was “good, but a bit bumpy with technical issues. We’re working those out.

“We’re keeping kids engaged with their schools,” she continued. “It’s always helpful to have an adult to keep kids on track. We, like their teachers, can hold them to a different standard than their parents might.”

The school day begins at 7 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m. — that includes extended care. School starts for each student when their school starts and ends when it ends. During extended care, students can participate in other activities or do their homework.

“We have two instructors per 10 students,” Younger said. “Each student is a member of a pod, and pods are broken down by grade.”

She said the YMCA has the ability to accept 70 students, but for the time being is sticking with 60. There are a few spaces still available.

“They bring their own devices, whether personal or from their schools,” she said. “Kids log in when they’re supposed to and the lessons begin with their teachers. We work with parents who provide us with worksheets and such. We’re there to help, for support.”

Paris Felogloy, one of the instructors, agreed there were some technical issues to work out at first, but that the students are adjusting well.

“They all wear masks and headphones,” he said. “They don’t complain, they’re adjusting really well. Better than we thought.”

Felogloy said students come in early in the morning prepared to begin their days.

“These kids are going to be incredibly computer literate,” he said. “In many ways, they already are. There isn’t a lot of anxiety. It’s really fun to see them be so resilient.”

Erin Herzig, a parent of a kindergartner and third-grader in the YMCA program, said she is thrilled the agency is providing help for parents like her and her husband who have to work full-time. Both of her children, Sam, 5, and Jack, 8, attend schools in Montague, which are currently providing fully remote learning.

“This is so phenomenal,” Herzig said. “The Y is helping them focus, listen and pick up on certain cues. My kids adore Kara (Younger) and her staff. They have a way of making them feel so comfortable. They have a way of joking and playing with them while helping them learn.”

Herzig said she understands that even if a parent is working from home, it’s a challenge to get that work done while supervising children through their school day. With programs like the one at the YMCA, the pressure is somewhat off parents, like it is when children are in school.

“I check in with the Y every day, and the staff is totally fine with that, welcomes it,” she said. “I’m so happy my kids are doing so well.”

Ja’Duke Preschool

Across the river at Ja’Duke Preschool, co-owner Kim Williams said its guided learning program is going well.

Oddly enough, Williams explained, what everyone thought would be easy is harder and what they thought would be hard is a lot easier than anticipated.

“Remote learning is awesome, but the down time is more difficult than we thought it would be because everyone has different schedules,” she said. “But the kids are great and have adapted, and parents say they really like it. It’s running very smoothly.”

Williams said it was “trial and error” when the school first started its program more than a week ago, but it’s working out all of the glitches, especially technical.

“We’re constantly in contact with parents and the students’ teachers and schools,” she said. “We’re very organized about all of that — we have a well-oiled machine. We know what’s happening as each day starts and have charts so every student does, as well.”

Williams said there are four learning rooms where students are separated by grades.

“We’ve got toys and art and LEGOs to build during down time,” she said. “We also take kids outside to let them stretch their legs. It all depends on how much of a break a school gives a student.”

Williams said everyone is practicing social distancing and wearing masks.

“Like anything else, it’s a learning curve and everyone — parents, teachers and students — are rising to the task,” she said. “None of us are taking anything for granted. And when it comes to remote learning, everyone is adapting, learning, trying their best, working together to resolve any problems.”

She said schools and their teachers are also doing incredible jobs to keep students engaged.

“I’ve seen different schools’ curriculum and they’re all good and different, but they’re keeping every student engaged,” Williams said. “Kids are all learning different things in different ways in the same room, and our staff is there to help. It’s really pretty incredible. I’m fascinated watching this happen.”

Nam’s Taekwondo Center

At Nam’s Taekwondo Center on Main Street in Greenfield, 15 students — four per grade — started last week.

Co-owner and Program Administrator Sarah Nam said children are settling in. All students practice social distancing and wear a mask, and they have their own desk and supplies at Nam’s.

“We’re there to make sure their doing their work, and that they are following instructions,” she said. “Students wear masks, but get two mask breaks a day. We have a 5,000-square-foot space, so that is done easily and safely.”

Nam said students are required to wash their hands at least once an hour, sometimes every half-hour, and they use hand sanitizer regularly.

“We provide Greenfield school district lunches for students — more than 95 percent of them are enrolled in Greenfield schools,” she noted. “We have students from 5 to 14 years old. Currently, we have six counselors, but we will hire more if we end up with more students.”

Nam said councilors make sure students are on the correct schedule and that they are doing the required work in the required time.

“We help them with their work, if they need it,” she said. “We also offer yoga and taekwondo during down time. All of that is socially distanced and with students wearing masks.

“This is sad for kids, but they’re adjusting,” she continued. “We’re here to make their days a little happier.”

Nam said there are still five slots available. She said parents have the option of an 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. school day, or they can choose an extended day of 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com.


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