Metro parents, groups getting creative to help kids with struggles of virtual learning

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Several metro school districts will start the upcoming school year with virtual learning. It brings a lot of challenges for working families to navigate managing their jobs and helping kids with school work. 

But Kansas City officials and area parents are coming up with creative solutions to help.

Four Kansas City Parks and Recreation community centers will soon be available free to families of K-6 grade students to be in small groups for virtual learning. It’s thanks to a partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Kansas City and Camp Fire Heartland. 

And all across the metro, families are thinking outside the box to come up with ways to keep kids safe in unique classroom environments.

Ashley and Preston Chandler’s kids will soon be starting first and seventh grades. The family wants to play it safe and do virtual learning this fall. 

But it’s been a tough, emotional choice for their oldest daughter in particular.

“I was surprised when she broke down a bit and she — there were tears, and she was concerned about being alone and not having some of that social interaction,” Preston Chandler said.

So he and his wife came up with an idea. 

With backgrounds in business management and art education, they decided to launch Mammoth Academy. It’ll be similar to what’s called a “micro school.” 

“We’re there to support, like another parent would be, then fill in the time they have after their curriculum is done,” said Ashley Chandler, program director for Mammoth Academy.

Students who enroll will do virtual school curriculum through their district, but attend in person in large spaced out classrooms, with only 8-15 students. 

The academy is currently under construction in Liberty and will welcome remote and flex-learning students when school starts Sept. 8.

“It’s a way that I think we can give back. It’s a service we can provide and maybe uniquely provide,” Preston Chandler said.  

Jemma Radick is exploring another unique learning model called pandemic learning pods.  It’s a way to help balance busy work schedules while kids also do school online.

“There really isn’t enough hours in the day to do two eight-hour jobs, plus document six-and-a-half hours of learning for the kids,” said Radick, a Shawnee Mission School District mom of two.

The idea is to partner with a few other families, and together, hire a learning lab leader to help guide kids through virtual learning and keeping them on track. 

Jemma’s hoping to find families who are taking serious COVID-19 precautions with their kids, to make sure the small school group can be safe.

“I have the space, we can make it work and we can share responsibilities for that, but finding other families who have the same priorities and preferences we do is the interesting bit right now,” Radick said.

Many parents in districts around the metro have created Facebook support groups to help create learning labs and share resources.

If you’re a Kansas City Public School parent and would like to sign up for KC Parks’ virtual learning sites, you must register online here.

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