VIRTUAL LEARNING SITES SPROUT UP TO HELP WORKING PARENTS
AppleMagazine|AppleMagazine #461
VIRTUAL LEARNING SITES SPROUT UP TO HELP WORKING PARENTS
A dance studio in Florida. A martial arts center in Missouri. Libraries in San Francisco. These and other places are taking on a somewhat unlikely new role this fall — welcoming children for supervised distance learning while their parents go to work.

With many schools still closed by the coronavirus pandemic, public and private alternatives are sprouting up across the nation to watch over children as they study.

The sites provide a lifeline for families that struggled through virtual learning last spring, but organizers acknowledge they are a poor substitute for schools with professional educators. And by inviting students to congregate in new spaces, experts say, the programs risk subjecting caregivers to the same virus dangers that closed schools.

“It’s creating the same situation as we would for having the children in school,” said Florida International University epidemiologist Dr. Aileen Marty. “So the only way that that works is if you know everybody in that group, a very small group, and everyone is tested and tested negative.”

When schools in Broward County, Florida, announced plans to begin the new year with remote learning, dance studio owner Katie Goughan recognized immediately the challenges for working parents. Her Dance Explosion Co. in Hollywood, Florida, has hired a substitute teacher who is on-site from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. to keep students on task. The studio is charging $150 a week, or a daily rate of $35.

“I thought to myself, ‘What would my parents have done with me?’” Gaughan said. “I wanted to alleviate any stress that parents might be under right now trying to find somewhere for their kids to do their schoolwork.”

The studio, which has capacity for 30 students, currently has 10 children during the day, all of them wearing masks, along with temperature checks and lots of hand sanitizer.

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AppleMagazine #461