SOUTH SIOUX CITY, Neb. — The upcoming school year will look a bit different for many families and the Norm Waitt Sr. YMCA is hoping to bridge the gap in education.
With the uncertainty of COVID-19, the Norm Waitt Sr. YMCA has created the Y Academy for the upcoming school year, a supplemental learning program for kids ages 5 through 12.
"We want to partner with families, parents and the school districts in order to be able to offer opportunities when school is out. Or if the school has to be out," CEO Rhonda Robson said about the new Y Academy.
It isn't just assistance with traditional school work they are providing, but other educational activities, too.
"What we are thinking is that (mornings) will be your more traditional schoolwork; the reading, the writing, stuff like that that they have to need," said Jacque Perez, the Y's Wellness Director. With school-aged kids herself, she's been helping with the plans for Y Academy. "Then in the afternoon, we will focus on the STEM projects, the science, crafts, PE, swim lessons are included with the Y Academy kids, so if you're here in the afternoon, you'll be able to learn how to swim."
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Robson and Perez both say that the health and safety of the kids and staff will be a top priority each day, with regular cleaning schedules, temperature checks and more.
"We know that if parents choose not to put their kids in school for safety reasons, we want them to know that what we are doing at the Y is going to be different in the fact that we are going to make sure that kids aren't cross-contaminating, that each kid is going to have their own little learning area," Perez said. "We are going to be really strict on social distancing. We have cleaning logs. For Y Academy, we will be deep cleaning twice a day."
The Y has been offering programs for kids throughout the pandemic. First with a day program for kids of essential workers, and then a summer care program for local kids. They haven't had any COVID-19 scares, but have a plan in place should someone show any symptoms. Perez says the kids in summer care learned the new safety protocols quickly, including staying socially distant in the hallways by using modified jump ropes to stay 6 feet apart. Summer care has given the Y team a good platform to build on for Y Academy.
The team at the Y has been working on the plans for Y Academy and says this program is a la carte and can be tailored for each family's needs.
"A parent may only need their child to come and get STEM activities or some physical education or swim lessons. So they can opt-out on all day. They can pick a certain day of the week, or morning or afternoon."
The cost of the program differs as well, depending on what each kid needs. A full breakdown of the pricing and the program can be found here. It's available to both members and non-members of the Y.
The Y hopes this new program can help Siouxland families feel safe in their kid's education.
"We want to come behind them and support them and their families and be able to offer something like the Y Academy," Robson said.
Perez agreed, saying, "we might not be able to serve as many kids as the school districts might, but we can bring on a lot of kids where parents will feel safe and we can keep them where they need to be."
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