COLUMBUS, Ohio — An education nonprofit hoping to bridge the learning gap for the time kids have been out of school since COVID-19 closed schools, is reaching thousands across the US and right here in Ohio.
The Waterford Upstart Summer Learning Program helps families at 200 percent of the poverty line and below. This year alone, nearly 13,000 kids in nine states, including Ohio, are getting the help they need most. It's coming at a critical time, as many of those families haven't have access to internet or even a laptop.
Five-year-old Emma Massey practiced her alphabet, while mom Dawn helped her sister Olivia get started on the Waterford Upstart program.
The two are taking time now to get ahead in everything from math and foreign language, to reading comprehension. The initiative is making sure rising kindergarteners aren’t behind when they start school.
Now that summer has hit, it’s also bridging the gap for others who missed formal educational time during school closures because of the pandemic.
“I feel like the two months that they were at home there was a disconnect because they didn't have that hands-on with the teachers,” said Dawn Massey.
For the Massey family and nearly 600 others in Ohio, it’s been a blessing. Up until recently, four of the five Massey children who are enrolled in Columbus City Schools were sharing two computers to get classwork done. When Emma was enrolled in the program, the family received an additional laptop.
“It was difficult with four students, or children that are eager to learn, but at the same time, not able to get on, you know, when they see one or two of their siblings, they're like, 'Mom, why can't I get on?'” said Dawn Massey.
Now full steam ahead into summer learning with the help of a parent coach to assist, it’s a jumpstart to the upcoming school year. Instead of putting their kids on a split schedule as is planned for Columbus City Schools, the Massey family is choosing to keep their kids at home to continue online learning in the fall.
“The precautions, they’re okay, but I do not feel safe. With the two days in school and three days at home, the blended learning, they might as well just go ahead and do it at home. So, we are going to take on that responsibility.”
The hope is that by keeping them in a year-round learning cycle, they’ll excel without limitations when school begins again.
Grants totaling $9 million from Overdeck, Valholla, and Blue Meridian helped the organization give families internet access, laptops and the software needed to fill in the learning gaps. The state-funded portion of the program is also working with in-home daycares now to provide the same learning opportunities for kids who will enter kindergarten in 2021.