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Boys & Girls Club offers remote learning spaces for students
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Boys & Girls Club offers remote learning spaces for students

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Afterschool programs may be its specialty during normal times, but the Boys & Girls Club of Flagstaff has not shied away from remote learning, instead embracing it as an opportunity to support local families during the pandemic.

The team realized that parents who cannot be at home or do not have Wi-Fi to support their children during remote learning needed another option.

“I know everyone is struggling now — parents, kids, teachers, everyone — so if we can help a little bit in that, we want to be there to do that,” said Lexi Adelberg, the Boys & Girls Club’s area supervisor. “We have access to Wi-Fi and we have staff to help them do their school, so that’s kind of how it happened. We knew we could fill those needs, so how could we make that happen?”

As a solution, in early September, the organization opened three remote learning sites where students can complete their online schoolwork: at Christ’s Church of Flagstaff and Flagstaff Junior Academy, plus a site in Williams.

The club’s main location, at the Cogdill Recreation Center, also has 50 spots available for children and teens, but has remained full since less than a week after it opened. The Williams location is also full, but the two additional Flagstaff sites, which have each been averaging about 10 students a day, are still accepting students.

The cost per week is $100 for students in kindergarten through fifth grade and $35 for students in sixth grade or higher, but tuition assistance is available. The sites are open on weekdays from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

At each of these locations, students not only have access to the internet and two free meals, but the organization has also doubled its staff to supervise and mentor these students as they complete their classes.

“The unfortunate reality is that a lot of our parents aren’t involved with their [students’] schooling work, so we kind of take on that role of checking in with their teachers, seeing where their progress is, are they doing their homework or struggling with their classes and we try to address it and then help them with the solution,” said CEO Mark Cox. “But parents aren’t teachers either and sometimes they don’t have the patience to do it, and our staff are here because they like working with kids, they have the patience for it and that’s why we hired them. They’ve got the skills to work with kids.”

Students have their temperatures checked in the mornings at each of the remote learning sites and immediately wash their hands upon entry. At the church site, in addition to wearing their masks, dividers are placed between students as they work at tables to complete their work.

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Students at each of the sites have their own materials, whether from home or provided to them by the organization, and are kept to less than 10 people per room by staff, who strive to maintain their longstanding role even as they adapt to providing this new service.

“Our main job is we’re mentors to those kids,” Adelberg said. “We’re not teachers and we’re not friends, we’re mentors. So we want the best for them and that means getting a good education, so how can we help assist that?”

During breaks between virtual classes, the team is able to utilize some of its more traditional programming by leading students in outdoor games such as foursquare, sharks and minnows as well as board games.

“We try to remove them from their tablet as much as we can, especially during their breaks and when they’re just done with school early,” said Deanna Burrell, Director of Operations. “We get them away, get them some fresh air, engage them and get them ready for their next school session.”

Burrell explained that when families register their student for a remote learning site, they are asked to include their school schedule, which staff build into a master alarm system to alert them three minutes before a student’s class begins, giving them time to wrap up any activities and get the students logged back into their device in time.

For classes requiring more participation, like physical education and music, students are either moved into separate rooms or outdoor spaces. At the Christ’s Church of Flagstaff location, students are able to use an outdoor patio, which has been beneficial for one student who had to build a bird bench for a woodshop class and another who needed to practice their clarinet.

Burrell said families have shared their appreciation for the daily consistency of this new program during a time of such change.

“The same kids are coming every day because we’re providing that breakfast, lunch and snack; helping with a parent who might need to go to work; providing quiet space, the tutors, the internet and those break time attention moments, as well,” Burrell said.

As Flagstaff Unified School District has extended its potential return-to-school start date past the fall break, Boys & Girls Club of Flagstaff is now looking to offer more spaces to students to complete school online. But at a cost of more than $40,000 each month to operate all of these remote learning sites, Cox said it will take additional community partnerships to support not only the new families who continue to reach out about these services, but also those who have needed this support since the beginning.

For more information on Boys & Girls Club of Flagstaff, visit https://bgcflag.org/.

Kaitlin Olson can be reached at the office at kolson@azdailysun.com or by phone at (928) 556-2253.

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