Iredell-Statesville Schools Tap Partners To Create Remote Learning Supervision
As parents scramble to find care while schools are teaching remotely, Iredell-Statesville Schools is creating a network of options using empty classrooms, reassigned staff and a lot of help from community partners.
Stacy Williams, who’s in charge of Iredell-Statesville’s community support programs, says ISS realized two things pretty quickly: One, a lot of the district’s 20,000 students were going to need supervision during the three days a week they’ll be learning remotely.
And two, the district couldn’t provide that alone.
"We just don’t have the staffing and we don’t have the available buildings to do that," she says.
So the school district is working with churches and community groups to create a network of flexible, affordable supervision for students in kindergarten through sixth grade. What’s emerging is both creative and complicated.
For instance, Williams says Lowe’s YMCA is using space in the vacant Mount Mourne school to provide school-day programs. ISS is sending its own staff into Friendship United Methodist Church in northern Iredell County to make sure those students have care near home. A new middle school has four unused classrooms, and the district is turning those into remote-learning centers for younger students.
That means some staff have to be reassigned. For instance, teacher assistants may shift to child-care programs on Wednesdays, when everyone learns remotely. And employees who used to staff out-of-school suspension (OSS) sites have been moved.
"In this time we’re looking at where’s the need the greatest, and we do anticipate that the child-care need is greater than the OSS need right now," Williams says.
In traditional times, child-care programs generally want families to commit to a full-time schedule. The Iredell-Statesville partners are encouraging families to pick and choose their days so as many kids as possible can be served.
"For some of them, they just need the after-school care and on remote-learning days they don’t need care," Williams says.
A quick reminder of how this works: Based on alphabetical order, Iredell-Statesville elementary and middle school students either attend school Monday and Tuesday or Thursday and Friday.
"Some of them have, like where a grandparent will cover on a Thursday but they need care on a Friday," Williams says. "So we’re really trying to open up our options and just have parents sign up for the days they need."
Partners Step Up
Spokeology, a Statesville marketing agency, just launched a Connect Iredell website to let prospective caregivers list their openings. To be included, providers have to agree to do background checks and follow the school district’s COVID-19 protocols.
United Way is raising money to subsidize programs and reduce costs to families.
A week before school starts, the child-care network still isn’t big enough to meet the need. But Williams says by working together, the community is making progress.
And Iredell County may be charting a path for districts across North Carolina, which are all looking for ways to make sure kids aren’t left home alone during the pandemic.
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