YMCA plans program for students that blends academic support, day camp

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 9, 2020

Carl Blankenship
carl.blankenship@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — As schools enter uncharted territory in the coming school year, the Rowan-Cabarrus YMCA is planning a childcare option for students that would blend academic support with its summer day camp programming.

Rowan-Salisbury Schools and Kannapolis City Schools are both offering in-person learning which would place students in class two days a week and all-virtual options, but Cabarrus County Schools, the largest district of the three, will not reopen facilities and begin school virtual only. Regional CEO Jamie Morgan said the Y Academy is planned for each of the regional six facilities, but it could look different depending on location. Here, the program could involve a partnership with public schools.

The Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education will view a contract with the Y on Monday thats includes mention of the Y Academy.

“In response to this temporary change in the school schedule, or any additional modifications, the YMCA will partner with the school system to provide alternative day camp and learning programs to school-aged children at the YMCA or their designated non-school facility,” the contract states. “The goal of these programs is to ensure access to safe, affordable child supervision that promotes extended learning and includes support for remote and virtual learning.”

Morgan said the Y Academy agreement is mostly the same as previous years — including allowing the district to use its facilities for swim, cheer, color guard and other sports practices. Morgan noted some of the agreement, like those allowing sports practice, will not apply due state guidelines that prevent those activities from taking place, but the agreement would be in place with the hope things will eventually return to normal.

Morgan said the program could also be beneficial to families who may not be equipped to help with a student’s academics even if child care is not an issue.

The program is in the process of being built and agreements are being made with school districts, but Hurley YMCA Executive Director Richard Reinholz said the plan is to offer an option for five days a week as well as three or less for families. That would cover virtual students who need daily child care and traditional students who would be in class two days a week.

Reinholz is one of the people spearheading the program for the regional organization and said it will be modeled after its traditional summer day camp which provides childcare and enrichment with academic support thrown in the mix.

Some of the time kids may spend playing would be reserved for working on homework and getting academic support from Y staff.

The summer day camp was modified to 10-child cohorts which stick together throughout the day and occupy one space at a time. Each cohort has a counselor and, under normal circumstances, there would be groups of 15 rather than 10 to a counselor, but Reinholz said state guidelines required the Y to reduce its group size. Every time a cohort leaves an area, it is cleaned before the next group arrives.

There will be challenges as well. The Y Academy program will have a cost to families, but Morgan said the YMCA is seeking additional funding to help provide the service to more families. Most of the program cost is tied up in staffing.

Reinholz said the Y is seeking more staff to help cover the program because during a normal school year it would not run a day camp program during the school year. There is also concern about bandwidth and if the internet available at the facilities will be able to handle the burden of students using it for school work.

“We are building this airplane as we’re flying it,” Reinholz said, adding guidance from the states and licensure rules change almost daily.

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About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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