As atypical start to school year nears, YMCA of the Northwoods ready to help families
By Eileen Persike
In two weeks classes begin in the School District of Rhinelander (SDR). The first day of school may be in a classroom for some students; for others, it may be at the kitchen table. However families choose to attend school in September, the YMCA of the Northwoods is ready support them.
“We’ve been preparing that if they went full five days in school, how do we respond from a before and after school perspective to support families,” said the Y’s CEO Ryan Zietlow. “If they went blended, what does it look like for us, if they went all virtual how does that work. We were able to come up with various plans; we were ready to pull the trigger as soon as [the school district] knew what direction they would be starting school with.”
The re-entry plan the district chose is Option One, Level Two (yellow). Elementary schools will be four full days in-person, with remote learning taking place Wednesdays. Middle and high school students will be split into Green and Gold groups, attending two days, Monday-Tuesday or Thursday-Friday, in person and learning remotely three days. The district is also offering Option Two, full time virtual learning through Hodag Tracks, the district’s online option.
Zietlow said when the Y staff began planning for the fall, they were as “intentional as possible” to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19, by asking, “How do we position our spaces most effectively to do that?”
For families that choose the Y for child care, the Option One, Level Two scenario calls for Crescent and NCES families to attend the Youth Development Center on Pelham Street, and Central and Pelican families to be at the Y’s main campus. Students would remain separated at those facilities by school.
“Our feeling from that is they have been attending a certain school, the chance of transmission is potentially there already,” Zietlow said. “For us keeping the schools separated is the best option that is out there.”
The Y is also offering care for students enrolled in Hodag Tracks at the Youth Development Center.
“From a perspective that a parent has to work and won’t have anyone home with [their child] and they are still nervous about sending them to school, our virtual learning academy will allow those students to stay together in smaller groups,” Zietlow said.
A big population of the community that also will be impacted by the new learning models is teens. What support will be needed for the 13-17 year olds, and how to best serve those teens are just two of the questions Zietlow said the Y staff continues to tackle.
“If that need is there, if we have enough kids in that teen range that need all-day, virtual learning care, we’ll figure out a way to make that happen,” Zietlow said. “That population is harder to gauge exactly what is needed.”
After one of the recent special school board meetings, Zietlow spoke with a couple of parents who have kids in that age range and one area of concern for them is safety.
“Kids may be able to stay home and do the virtual learning piece, but that doesn’t take eight hours a day, so during those other four or five hours a day, some kids may need just a little more support, just to make sure they remain safe in the choices they are making,” he said, adding that a program for teens needs “unstructured structure,” in order to be successful.
As SDR administrators have the opportunity to flex Option One from blended learning to either five-day in-person learning for all students or fully remote learning, Zietlow said the Y has the ability to pivot and shift to meet the needs of families. For information on day care programs available through the Y, visit ymcaofthenorthwoods.com or call 715-362-9622 to speak to Zietlow or school-age program director Abbie Cline.