The 2020-2021 school year has been one of the weirdest years we have ever lived through. However, with your help and support through all of the chaos and ever-changing rules and regulations, we managed to bring good from a tough situation. Together, we were able to continue to build strong young lives, when most of our lives were put on hold or affected in different ways.
In August 2020, we were finishing up our Summer School Program and looking towards what our Fall Program would look like. We had to completely stop all of our past programs because we were no longer able to operate under the new COVID-19 restrictions and guidance. As the uncertainty of the school year loomed in front of us, we had to decide what direction we would take. We had to think about how we would be able to continue our mission at SSYO given all the restrictions and changes that came with COVID-19.
Thankfully, at the end of August, the Oregon Department of Education began to allow new facilities to become licensed as child care providers. This led to a whirlwind of four weeks of filling out paperwork, scheduling inspections, moving supplies and furniture into a new building, creating health and safety plans for any potential COVID-19 outbreaks, and finally gaining approval to operate as a Licensed Child Care Facility.
The purpose of our RISE Child Care program was the same as our RISE After School program. We wanted to assist in the academic and social/emotional development of the kids in the program in order to build strong young lives so our community will thrive. We were able to help families in a variety of different situations in life: working parents in need of support with the online distance learning, parents needing care for their child in order to search for a job, and parents whose teachers referred them to our program because their child was struggling to engage in the online learning and was falling behind academically.
The RISE Child Care program ran Monday-Friday 8:00a–5:00p. Our mornings were filled with Online Distance Learning. The students worked on zoom meetings from 8:15a-2:30p every day. The RISE Staff made sure that students were focused on their learning and helped students with any schoolwork that they were struggling to understand. During breaks, the RISE Staff would connect with the students by playing with toys or games together and talking with them. After the online school day was complete, we would transition our schedule to our usual RISE After School program. We would read with the students, have free time outside, play group games and do craft activities each day. Providing an average of 45 hours a week of care, it was a full schedule that kept us busy throughout the year.
At the beginning of the school year, it was very clear that the majority of the students enrolled in the program were starving for social interaction. After almost 6 months of being isolated from people apart from their close family and friends, the kids now had a safe place to socialize with their peers. Not only that, but we as a staff were excited to be back around the children after such a long time away.
As we entered into the winter months though, weariness set in. The students were continuing to learn but their engagement in meetings was dropping. We really had to work to keep them motivated but the strong sense was that they were longing to be back in school just as much as we were. Thankfully, by March we got word that the students would transition into the hybrid model of learning, followed shortly after by the news that students would be returning to full time in-person learning in May. Because of our close proximity to the school, we were able to easily change our schedule to best fit with the changing plans of the Corvallis School District. Everyone was ecstatic! The kids were so excited to see their teachers and classmates in person, and the energy doubled in the child care once the students returned to school.