SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – We’re two days into the new school year, and community leaders are trying their best to make things feel as normal as possible. Whether that be Springfield Public Schools, or other organizations. For example, the Discovery Center and CoxHealth made separate school programs to help parents worried about taking care of their kids during the day.
For a quick recap:
The Discovery Center opened its Discovery School. Executive Director Rob Blevins says The Discovery School at the Center will last the entirety of the 2020-2021 school year and offer children several different learning experiences including: fine arts, world languages, mathematics, science, social studies, physical education and computer coding.
Blevins says the Center also began its Learning Support Care Program. The program is in-person childcare to help students meet the virtual requirements on their virtual learning days. He says the Discovery Center’s education staff will help guide and tutor students during the virtual learning portion of the school semester. The learning program is $125 per week per student, but families can apply for scholarships to pay the costs.
CoxHealth just began its school care program at the Meyer Center. The program intends to serve CoxHealth employees’ children, and its university partners (OTC, Drury, Evangel) while traditional seated classes aren’t an option. According to the hospital, its program includes a structured environment where students can attend classes virtually, complete their assignments and be supervised by individuals who can assist with questions and offer support. CoxHealth is partnering with OTC, Drury, and Evangel to provide tutoring support for students in this program. The program is from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and is open to students in grades K-6. The parents’ hourly rate will calculate daily fees, and meals will be provided to students in the program.
So, how are these programs doing so far?
In a normal year, Lucia Shirato would be attending McBride Elementary School five days a week. Instead, she’s enrolled in the Discovery Center’s Learning Support Care Program. What if she had to choose between going to school at McBride or the Discovery Center?
“I’d probably go to school here [at the Discovery Center],” Shirato said. “Because there’s a lot of stuff that you could do. A lot more activities and things to do than normal school.”
Frances Munch, a third grader at Wilder Elementary School, was also asked the same question.
“I’d rather go to school five days a week, but I also love it here,” Munch said. “So, I don’t know.”
Munch says her experience in the program has been “really great” so far.
“I’m really sad that school isn’t normal, but I’m really happy that I got to go here,” Munch said. “I have a teacher helper in my class. I really like her. She just goes around and she asks how we’re doing. Honestly, that makes virtual a little bitter. That, and I don’t have to do Zoom.”
Munch says she hates virtual learning, but the Discovery Center has made it enjoyable.
“Play around the museum and learn,” Munch said. “It’s been great to learn here.”
Executive director Rob Blevins says things have been way more fun this time around than early March.
“I love that I can help kids here, but I know that there are kids at home who are six, seven, eight years old where their parent had to go to work,” Blevins said. “If they don’t go to work, they can’t pay for the roof over their head, they can’t pay for their food. There’s kids sitting at home by themselves right now because there’s nowhere else to go. I want to find a way to bring those kids in this Center. It’s not just about the kids here, it’s about the kids that we aren’t serving.”
Parents can still register their kids for the Learning Support Care Program. Blevins says his staff is hoping to serve more than 200 kids, and can adapt to any changes. Another 100 spots are ready to open up.
CoxHealth’s school care program
CoxHealth system director of recruitment and retention Celeste Cramer says it has gone “really, really well so far.”
“It’s exceeded expectations already,” Cramer said. “We had a very smooth drop-off process yesterday and pick-up. Today went even more smooth.”
Cramer says since this is the first week of school, students are getting used to the virtual platform. There’s been hiccups with accessing Chromebooks and logging into computers. She says some of the kindergarteners won’t get their Chromebooks from SPS until Thursday. So, in the meantime, her staff is focusing on different ways to entertain them. By next week, every student should have their Chromebook and the right log-ins.
“Next week I can see us really diving more into the education side,” Cramer said.
So far, students have responded well to the program. Cramer says she didn’t have as many nervous students as she anticipated.
“Even whenever we were taking students out to the cars yesterday evening, quite a few [students] didn’t want to leave,” Cramer said. “That’s always exciting to see, especially on a first day.”
No parents or visitors are allowed inside during the day, so CoxHealth uses an application called brightweel to keep parents updated, upload pictures and actively communicate.
“I know as a parent that has to be a challenge,” Cramer said. “But, I know for the most part that they all appreciate that. I think everyone’s well aware that the more people that are introduced to a facility, the more risk of infection and spreading different illnesses can happen.”
Cramer and her staff are expecting double the amount of students on Wednesday, August 26, 2020. Wednesday’s are when both virtual sides of SPS meet. CoxHealth plans to double up on staff tomorrow. Cramer says a survey was sent out to health leaders, and over 100 volunteers have offered to help. Stations for different grades will be set up, and there is a process in place where students wash their hands before they go to their class.”
“When it doubles, we have the staff to help, and the space to make sure that we can handle that capacity tomorrow,” Cramer said.
Cramer says helping facilitate this program has been a rewarding experience.
“As a mom, my kindergartener – my youngest – went into kindergarten yesterday, so I know the feeling all those moms were feeling whenever they were dropping off first day or picking up,” Cramer said. “One of the most heartwarming experiences for me is one of the children, whenever I was walking her to wash her hands, said ‘hey do you know my mom is?’ And when I asked who her mom is, I said ‘yeah I know your mom, I work with your mom. She said ‘oh my gosh isn’t she just the best mom ever?’
The program is still taking registrations. You can call Cox Learning Center South at 417-269-6775.