Local youth programs model how schools could reopen while keeping kids, staff safe

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As schools plan for how to safely reopen, many parents are nervous about sending kids back as COVID-19 cases keep climbing. 

But it turns out, there’s a good model for how to keep students and staff safe.  

Hundreds of metro kids rely on places like the Boys & Girls Club to be supported and safe.  That’s been especially important during this pandemic.

And there are critical things happening at the clubs that could help parents feel better about sending kids back to school in a few weeks.

As soon as you step into the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kansas City, you stop and get your temperature checked.  

Inside the club, coronavirus safety measures continue. Desks are spaced apart. Students and staff are wearing masks. There are hand hygiene breaks every 30-45 minutes. Students are also asked about any symptoms they might be feeling.

“That’s our way of just understanding kind of the overall well-being of our members, and if there’s any concern about response to the questions, we have certain plans in place that would prevent them from potentially spreading the virus in the clubs,” said Dred Scott, president and CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kansas City.

The clubs also get a regular deep-cleaning, all in an effort to keep students and staff healthy.

“We haven’t had any multi-person outbreaks here within any of our centers, so we’re excited about that,” Scott said. “But you know, that is a diligent effort we have to take responsibility for on a daily basis.”

The same is true for local YMCA youth programs, which have not stopped providing care since the pandemic began in March. 

Kids are dropped off at the club, then screened for their temperature and potential symptoms. During the day, the YMCA is focused on limiting group sizes and keeping the same students and staff together.

“Keeping small groups and keeping groups socially distant and doing those types of things, I think, have made our camps really safe and effective this summer,” said Steven Scraggs, YMCA youth development services senior vice president.

These youth organizations, which are currently serving nearly 1,000 students combined, know the impact in-person school has when it comes to the physical, social, emotional and educational needs of students. 

But as many parents consider whether to send kids to the classroom or continue virtual learning this fall, these youth clubs said their success in stopping COVID-19 from spreading should be encouraging. 

With the right safety measures in place, student and teachers can stay healthy, they said.

“It’s a deeply kind of personal decision and everyone knows their child and their individual situation, but I will tell you this: If there is a cleaning product they can put in place that helps, if there’s a schedule they can do that helps or distancing requirements or PPE they can add to a classroom, it’ll be there,” Scraggs said. “So when schools do open, our school districts will have them as safe as they can possibly be.”

Both Boys & Girls Club and the YMCA said they’re also going to be adjusting how they operate based on what schools look like this fall. 

They may open up extra days if schools go to a hybrid model or attend alternate days to support students who need a safe space to continue their learning. 

The YMCA is also extending summer camps in Kansas through the end of August since it appears schools there won’t be starting until after Labor Day.

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