This year, keeping young people on track academically means clearing a major hurdle – logging on to the virtual classroom. Grants totaling $23,900 helped the Boys & Girls Club of Oshkosh and Oshkosh Community YMCA quickly pivot when the Oshkosh Area School District announced its plan to start the school year with a hybrid virtual/in person school week schedule.
Both the Club and the YMCA have created learning pods where more than 300 students access computers, all while learning and playing at a safe distance from each other.
Being flexible to quickly meet evolving needs did come at a cost, however. The switch from before and after school care to all-day care increased program expenses for both organizations, mostly due to extended operating hours, smaller youth to staff ratios, and purchases of personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies.
The Oshkosh COVID-19 Relief Fund, established jointly by the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation and the Oshkosh Area United Way, stepped up to provide grants to help with unanticipated staffing costs and much needed internet service upgrades.
Learning pods comprise 12 children and one staff at the Boys & Girls Club, and 15 children and two staff at the YMCA due to larger classroom sizes. Staff don’t take the place of teachers, but they do help keep kids focused, field questions, and anticipate challenges with virtual learning.
Kids stay in the same classroom for the entire day except for breaks in the gymnasium and outdoors. Breaks in on-line learning are also interspersed throughout the day for mindfulness activities, reading, art, yoga and more.
“We are doing everything we can to ensure that our kids learn and stay physically and mentally healthy,” says Tracy Ogden, COO of the Boys & Girls Club of Oshkosh. “Stressful home environments can hinder learning so it’s important that we also continue to serve the entire family by helping them access needed resources like food and rent/utility assistance programs.”
Safety protocols in place include daily temperature readings, mandatory face coverings and more frequent deep cleaning. Since the start of the school year, only one learning pod at each organization has had to isolate at home for two weeks due to a positive COVID diagnosis.
“Parents have shared that their kids love being able to see their friends in this controlled setting. The entire community benefits when children have a safe place during the day and parents can maintain employment,” shares Jeff Schneider, president/CEO of the Oshkosh Community YMCA.
There are many ways to support our community in this time of need. In addition to considering a gift to the Oshkosh COVID-19 Relief Fund, residents are encouraged to continue to support the charities they care about that are struggling with diminished revenue. For more information on how to donate to the Relief Fund, please visit www.oshkoshareacf.org/fund/oshkosh-covid-19-relief-fund/.