Five Johnson County Park and Recreation District facilities will be hosting JCPRD Learning Hubs to provide in-person places for students in grades one through eight to safely learn and enjoy enrichment experiences as school reopening plans continue to fluctuate in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. With safety protocols and limited enrollment, these five sites will only accommodate a combined total of 85 students per week.
The five sites and their capacities are: the Mill Creek Activity Center (MCAC), 6518 Vista Ave., Shawnee, which will take 20 children in grades three through eight; the Ernie Miller Nature Center (EMNC), 909 N. Kansas 7 Highway, Olathe, which will accommodate 10 students in grades one through five; the Roeland Park Community Center (RPCC), 4850 Rosewood Dr., Roeland Park, which will take 10 students in grades three through eight; the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center, 8788 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park, which will take 30 students in grades one through six, and the New Century Fieldhouse, which can accommodate 15 students in grades three through eight.
Costs vary somewhat by location. At MCAC, and NCF, the cost is $200 per week. At EMNC, the cost is $120 for three days per week. At JCAHC, the cost is $390 for two weeks, and at RPCC, the cost is $400 for two weeks. All the programs will operate Monday through Friday with MCAC, RPCC, and JCAHC beginning Sept. 8, and the EMNC and NCF beginning Sept. 14. Online registration for these programs at JCPRD.com, or by phone at (913) 831-3359, began Thursday, Aug. 27, for three sites: MCAC, RPCC, and JCAHC; and will begin at 8 a.m. Monday, Aug. 31, for EMNC and NCF.
In addition to following learning plans from the local school districts each of the sites will also emphasize the topics and disciplines stressed at those sites. Students at MCAC will take part in physical education activities including gymnastics, yoga, nutrition, meditation and outdoor fun. At JCAHC, students will have creative time to explore performing and visual arts, and the Johnson County Museum. At EMNC, nature education and outdoor activities could include live animal presentation, hikes, nature play, storytelling and crafts. At NCF, participants can take part in physical education activities including volleyball, basketball, soccer, and pickleball and at RPCC, there will be a variety of fun activities during the week.
The overall goal of this program is to help families struggling to deal with the uncertainly caused by COVID-19.
“We did not invent this type of program,” said JCPRD Wellness Manager Jill Leiker. “Across the United States from San Francisco to New York, park and recreation agencies are teaming with school districts and Boys and Girls Clubs, and others to be able to create these programs,” Leiker said. “We are just trying to do something to help people. These are temporary solutions to help parents. Families are desperate for places for their kids to be able to go. If we can help 60 to 100 kids have a safe place to go, during the day during all this uncertainty, then we’ve done our job.”
It should be noted that the five Virtual Learning Hub sites are separate from programs being operated by JCPRD’s Children’s Services Department, which are currently taking registrations only from those previously enrolled in the district’s Out of School Time programs.
“We are following local health department guidelines to run these programs,” said JCPRD Wellness Manager Jill Leiker. “We are trying to fill the needs of the community on a temporary basis, while (JCPRD’s) Children’s Services (Department) is an ongoing year-after-year program.”
Safety amongst the pandemic during these programs comes from leveraging all the protocols used to keep kids safe during this year’s summer camps, as well as from the small class sizes, keeping in compliance with a Kansas Department of Health & Environment regulation requiring a student-to-teacher ratio of one to 15.
While scheduling for some of the Virtual Learning Hubs is currently projected into December, the actual schedule will be dependent upon plans of local school districts.
“We will follow closely with school district schedules, and adapt programs as necessary to accommodate students,” Leiker said. “We’ll pivot ourselves to make adjustments as school districts change their schedules.”