Boone County secondary school children now have access to hybrid-learning support programs thanks to Mental Health of America of Boone County and the Boys & Girls Club of Boone County.
Although all Boone County school districts have allowed elementary students to fully return to in-person classes, secondary schools in the districts have adopted a hybrid model of learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, sequestering students into cohorts and limiting the number of days they attend in-person classes. As a result, secondary students participate in distanced learning most days of the week.
Two Boone County nonprofits have offered assistance that has required students and parents to adapt to different schedules. Mental Health of America of Boone County offers before- and after-school care and eLearning support for Lebanon and Western Boone students, and the Boys & Girls Club of Boone County offers the same services for all Boone County students.
“At the middle school level, we have some kids who are struggling a bit and some of them are plain old not mature enough to be left in a home (by themselves) or, for that matter, even with parents working from home,” Mental Health of America of Boone County President and CEO Pascal Fettig said. “It’s kind of hard work at home and initially home school.”
Fettig said the nonprofit provides supervision in a safe environment where students are separated in cubicles, and toys, equipment and rooms are sanitized regularly. The nonprofit also upgraded its bandwidth for more reliable communications with teachers during the school day. Fettig said the hybrid learning support program can support 50 students. Eighteen are currently enrolled.
“We can also provide additional assistance in not quite tutoring but guide them in making sure their work gets completed and gets completed right,” Fettig said. “That’s really a good program for the parents who either have to go to work or work in a home or don’t have the time or the means where they can provide everything the kids need.”
The Boys & Girls Club of Boone County has implemented similar mitigation strategies to protect students, and it aims to provide similar services for all county students, including Zionsville students. (Zionsville students would be served at the club’s Whitestown facility.)
The club utilizes a pod system that separates students into pods of 10 to 12 who attend the same school. They are assigned a staff member who rotates with them from room to room.
Branch said there were no reported cases of COVID-19 traced to any of the club’s Boone County locations despite offering services through the summer.
Although the club has a limited number of students who can enroll in its hybrid-learning support program, Boys & Girls Club of Boone County CEO Mark Branch said there is still capacity to enroll more students.
“We make sure, whatever their educational schedule is, that they are online for their classes and doing their work in between, but also give them the chance to have some fun and relax and be supervised and safe while their parents are working,” Branch said. “They can enjoy themselves and not feel they are just either stuck isolated or don’t have the different equipment to play with.”
Both organizations plan to offer these services as long as there is a need in the community. Fettig and Branch both said their nonprofits are preparing plans for if schools close because of the pandemic, during which they hope to be able to offer similar support to county students.
“Ultimately, the goal is to get beyond this pandemic, and we hope that science catches up and that we can get our kids back in school five days a week,” Fettig said.