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Community rec centers across the U.S. have continuously been working to find ways to serve their communities during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

One way the YMCA of Greater Brandywine is serving their community is through their new learning centers, which will allow a space for students to complete online schoolwork while their parents are at work.

When Pennsylvania schools went to virtual learning in the fall, it was challenging for many, including the YMCA staff with school age children, to keep up. “It’s difficult — if not impossible — to be a parent, teacher, employee and more all at the same time,” said Kim Cavallero, the vice president of marketing and communications for the YMCA of Greater Brandywine. “For the coming school year, parents were worried about how they would balance it all if their children did virtual learning.”

Understanding this need, the Y surveyed their community about the possibility of offering learning centers. Within 24 hours, more than 1,000 people had positively responded to the survey, which confirmed that there was a real desire for this type of support. Cavallero said they immediately went to work developing the program, and continue to work in partnership with both their local schools and parents.

Learning centers are available at seven branches: the Brandywine YMCA, Jennersville YMCA, Kennett Area YMCA, Lionville Community YMCA, Octorara YMCA Program Center, Oscar Lasko YMCA & Childcare Center, and Upper Main Line YMCA. The learning centers will provide full-day care from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, with an additional after care option until 6 p.m.

Children will receive dedicated academic support to ensure they complete their virtual learning. Additionally, social enrichment opportunities and physical fitness activities will also be provided, and students will have access to Y amenities such as playgrounds, gymnasiums and outdoor spaces.

“The YMCA exists to support our community in every way possible, so when we saw a significant need, our team went to work determining how we could best help in partnership with all,” said Cavallero. “This is our mission in action — we are here to meet the needs of our community and help everyone grow stronger.”

If your facility is considering implementing learning centers or a similar school-related childcare offering, Cavallero gave the following five tips for doing so successfully:

  1. Work in partnership with your school districts, survey families and identify the needs. Our survey showed parents were just as, if not slightly more, concerned about socialization opportunities and fitness activities than academic support for their children. As a result, all three of these elements have become cornerstones of our program.
  2. Work closely with your local schools to see where there are opportunities to partner. For example, some of our schools have willingly volunteered to provide furniture, such as desks.
  3. Work with local organizations and your own members to obtain donations for supplies like headphones that children in your learning centers might need.
  4. Work closely with health and government agencies to implement health and safety guidelines, and ensure your staff is trained in all needed procedures to reduce the risk of COVID-19.
  5. Remember this isn’t a budgeted expense for families, so provide as much financial support as possible and keep the program as affordable as possible.

You can find more information on the program here.

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Taylor Brown

Taylor Brown is a staff writer for Community Rec Magazine. She can be reached at taylor@peakemedia.com.

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