Funding will establish the GPPSS Kids Club Centers for remote learning

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published October 6, 2020

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GROSSE POINTES — On Sept. 22, it was announced that the Grosse Pointe Foundation for Public Education will provide funding from the Lois J. Warden Fund, in an amount not to exceed $66,000, to support the establishment of Kids Club Centers for remote learning in the Grosse Pointe Public School System.

The funding will be used to start a day care Kids Club Center environment on a limited basis for elementary students who have school on days in which they are doing virtual learning at home. The goal is to open up the program to children with the most need, primarily students who qualify for free or reduced lunch programs or are children of district teachers. Thirteen percent of the district’s population qualifies for free or reduced lunch.

Kids Club provides care before and after school for students at their home school. But because students are conducting virtual learning at home and not in school due to COVID-19, district officials want to offer the program during the school day for families whose parents aren’t able to work from home and have to leave the home to go to work. This way, students have a place to go for their remote learning. The program is expected to launch within 30 days and is anticipated to last as long as the district  remains on a remote or hybrid learning model.

The district already has been offering a daily Kids Club program for remote learning at Trombly and Poupard elementary schools, and with the new funding, school officials can expand the program. Staff also hopes to bring back before- and after-school care, which hasn’t been offered because of the district’s current virtual learning format. If the program continues to grow, other schools might open for all-day Kids Club.

“Since our inception, the GPFPE has worked hard to meet the needs of the district’s children, parents and educators in creative and engaging ways. The current environment has placed extraordinary pressures on our families and school system alike, and the GPFPE is pleased to be able to provide the resources to expand this critically important program and, most importantly, ease the burden on those with the most need,” GPFPE President Robert Bury said in a prepared statement. “It is most fitting the Lois J. Warden Fund provides the initial funding, as Lois was a visionary on our board and was dedicated to the enrichment of our elementary aged students. We hope this generous gift from the Warden Fund inspires many others to join in addressing this critical need.”

Since the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, students have done their schooling in a virtual format at home either in the OneGP Virtual or the GPPSS Traditional program. At the Sept. 28 Board of Education meeting, the school board voted 6-1 to approve the district’s “Return to Face to Face Instruction for GPPSS Traditional.” The Young Fives, kindergarten, and first and second grade students will begin face-to-face hybrid learning Oct. 12. Third, fourth and fifth grade students will begin face-to-face hybrid learning Oct. 19. The sixth through 12th grades are expected to return via hybrid learning Nov. 9. Students in OneGP Virtual must continue with remote learning through the semester.

Even with the hybrid model, students will be schooling at home part of the time. Students who qualify for the GPPSS Kids Club Centers for remote learning would be able to do their virtual schooling in a classroom rather than at home. They would access their regular teachers and classes using technology, but it would be under the supervision of the Kids Club staff and paraprofessionals.

According to a district press release, the funding will allow for available space at the Poupard and Trombly elementary school buildings as Kids Club center sites.

“Both have passed the initial state and fire marshal inspections and can accommodate a number of classrooms on the first floor in both buildings,” the press release states.

Another goal is to staff the Kids Club centers for remote learning with current Kids Club staff and furloughed employees, with two adults for every 10 children, per pandemic requirements. No class will exceed 10 children. The program also will offer a scholarship program based on need where parent cost ranges $50-$125 per week. Funding will be provided based on the number of students actually enrolled and could be less if demand is less than anticipated.

“Many families are challenged to accommodate this arrangement, as many parents need to focus on their work responsibilities while at home overseeing their child’s remote learning, and in many cases, parents have returned to their offices and work sites,” the press release states. “Many single and dual working parents are struggling to find affordable childcare needed for the start of school. Lower-income families are disproportionately affected, as these individuals are most often unable to work from home, as many are essential and/or are employed in a service industry. Additionally, students whose parents are teachers in the district also find themselves with few affordable options for child care.”

The weekly tiered tuition rates are: those receiving free lunch, $50; those receiving reduced lunch, $75; and children of GPPSS staff, $125. That is per week and per child. Those fees are subject to change.

Community members are being asked to help support the program. Gary Niehaus and his wife, Paige, have pledged $5,000 per month to support the program. Anyone interested in donating can visit the GPFPE website at www.gpfpe.org or contact Karen Lawrence at  lawrenk@gpschools.org or (313) 432-3058.

The GPFPE is an independent nonprofit organization that funds educational opportunities for students not available in the general budget. Since 2007, the GPFPE has provided over $3.2 million in grant money to support a variety of programs districtwide.

GPPSS is also seeking staff to work in the Kids Club. If interested, visit the employment section of the district’s website, gpschools.org.