“We’re going to be remote this year at one point or another,” said Norma Cowan, an eighth-grade teacher at Oak Run Middle School.
Though both NBISD and CISD will offer on-campus classes, both districts have shared that if a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, a class or an entire school may be required to self-quarantine for 14 days and utilize remote learning during that time.
For parents that are not able to work from home and have young children that need to be supervised while learning remotely, potential school closures could cause conflicts with work.
“There are so many people that are having to choose between working and staying home with their kids, and they can’t afford to lose their jobs,” Cowan said.
This uncertainty inspired Traci Owens, who is also a teacher at ORMS, to write a proposal for a program she calls “study pods.”
According to Owens, the concept is for local businesses, nonprofits and other groups with large spaces to offer an option for children to bring their devices and complete their school work under the supervision of an approved volunteer while their caretakers are at work.
Owens shared the idea with Cowan and other teachers, parents and business owners, who then helped her create a Facebook page called Real Solutions for Remote Learning where people can learn about the idea and share information.
“[The page] is community members, business members, parents, teachers and anybody just looking for a way to help,” Owens said. “When we do go remote, it’ll be the teachers providing the lesson, ... but parents need somebody to help facilitate their kids getting on and doing it.”
Several businesses and organizations have already developed plans for remote learning child care programs, including Studio of Dance and Cheer.
According to owner Kellie Jackson, SDC will offer roughly 25 students a full-day program where they will be supervised while completing their assignments and where they may also participate in a socially distant movement class for $125 a week.
“[Kids] don’t have anywhere to go, and I figured, well, we have space, we have the Wi-Fi capability here, and I have a teaching degree,” Jackson said.
Jackson, who was a teacher for 15 years, hopes the program will offer students a safe place to learn while helping the studio recover from spring coronavirus closures.
“We had to close down like other people did,” Jackson said. “It’s also a way for us to be able to build some income back up.”
Owens hopes that other businesses and organizations will also offer similar options for students, especially those whose families cannot afford child care.
“Small businesses are hurting. I think that it is awesome that they're taking this opportunity to make that service available,” Owens said. “I would love to see some low-cost or no-cost options out there.”
In order to operate a program like this, a facility will need to adhere to CDC health recommendations to protect children and adults, and all volunteers would need to receive background checks before working with children, Owens said.
“We can do something temporary to fix this issue,” Owens said. “The more people that want to help the better we’ll do.”
Community Impact would like to hear from our readers about their plans for the coming school year and get their feedback on how local school districts are handling reopening campuses in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Feedback submitted may be used in upcoming print and online coverage. Readers can submit feedback using this parent form or this teacher form.