We are thrilled that our out-of-school-time program (known around the community as simply “Program”) has safely started in-person sessions. We had a chance to catch up with the site coordinators of our three learning centers to see what changes have been made and to get to know these everyday heroes a little better.
CLI: How is Program and the beginning of the school year different this year? For example, what is CLI doing this year to make Program safe?
Mr. Joseph: This year we have taken on a smaller group of students and only serve one group a day. We are taking students’ temperatures and requiring masks at all times. In our buildings, we sanitize frequently touched surfaces daily and make sure students are 6 feet apart during Program time.
Ms. Gwen: Also, every student has their own supply box filled with school supplies, headphones, a clean mask, and sanitizer, so that materials are never shared. Students also sanitize their laptop keyboards at the beginning of Program and sanitize their desks at the halfway mark.
CLI: Is Program itself different this year in what you are teaching kids and how you are interacting with them?
Ms. Yensy: We are focusing on students’ social/emotional needs as the pandemic has taken a toll on the students and families we serve.
Mr. Joseph: We are providing more enrichment in the form of art, mixed sports, and computer activities. We still focus on students’ grades, but we also are aiming to help our students take their minds off the stress of dealing with a pandemic.
Ms. Gwen: Regarding interactions, we’re constantly reminding ourselves to be gentle with our students. Sometimes they come to program late, but that may be due to the fact that they are providing childcare for a younger sibling while their parents are at work, or maybe they had a tough day with virtual school.
CLI: Do you get the feeling that the kids are glad to have Program open again?
Ms. Yensy: We can tell the students are happy to get some sense of normalcy by returning to Program. They have been attending Program consistently and having positive interactions with friends who they may not have seen for several months due to the circumstances we’re in. Their smiles and participation speaks volumes.
Mr. Joseph: I think the students are glad to be able to go somewhere during the day, rather than staying indoors most of the time. They also get to see their friends after a long day on a computer.
CLI: What concerns are parents expressing about their kids now that the school year has started again?
Ms Gwen: Parents have communicated that they have difficulty helping their children with virtual learning due to the language barrier.
Ms. Yensy: Several parents are working, so that sometimes leaves an older sibling to manage younger siblings online learning.
CLI: And personally, what are your primary concerns for the kids?
Ms. Gwen: I’m concerned about a lot of things regarding the kids we serve. While I know virtual school is the right thing to do to keep our vulnerable community members safe, I really feel for our kids who are missing out on the in-person interactions with various members of their school community.
Ms. Yensy: Many of my students were already academically behind. Now, they are further regressing.
Mr. Joseph: I want them to know they have a space that cares about them.
CLI: How long have you been a site coordinator at Community Lodgings?
Ms. Yensy: One year
Mr. Joseph: I’ve been a site coordinator for about 5 year; I started at Community Lodgings as an Americorps member.
Ms. Gwen: I’ve been a site coordinator for six years at Community Lodgings.
CLI: What parts of your job do you like the most?
Ms. Gwen: My favorite part of my job is interacting with students. I hope I’m making a difference in their lives.
Ms. Yensy: I like to see the students’ reactions when something finally clicks, and they can understand something they found challenging.
Mr. Joseph: I really enjoy watching my students learn and become more independent each year I’ve been at Community Lodgings. Doc4