Schools offer children education and socialization. As coronavirus continues to keep children at home, parents are forming their own neighborhood learning pods. Some United Methodist Churches are embracing this new opportunity to serve young families.
Online school presents many challenges for working parents.
Matthew Charlton, Parent: “You’re an elementary school teacher. You’re a middle school teacher. You’re an administrator. You’re an IT support person, cafeteria. You’re a sanitation expert.”
Healthcare workers and other essential employees can’t work from home. So, Glendale United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee opened the church doors to a partnership with parents from a nearby school.
Rev. Stephanie Dodge, Glendale United Methodist Church: “Anytime that we can use our building in ministry is a great opportunity. And so, we said ‘of course.’ They lined up tutors to come in to work with the students. So we were just able to provide the space and the internet so they could be here and do their virtual schooling.”
Karin: “I think I’d like to go in normal school again, but I have mixed feelings. I think I like this but I also like real school.”
The school-in-a-church operates four days a week with extended hours. Parents hired three mentors to help with online lessons and to provide enrichment activities.
Spanish lesson starts
Allison Hodde, Program Mentor: “So, in the mornings… I think it’s 7:30 or 7:45… the morning teacher comes in and she’s in here until 1. And, then I come and I’m here until 5:45 or 6 o’clock. And usually at that point the kids are over with school and they want to just play. However, I do try to get them to do their homework.”
The church has plenty of sinks for hand washing, space for social distancing and a playground for study breaks.
Matt Charlton: “The church has been very gracious and not saying we need so much for utilities. But just offered the space for the kids’ use. Any time a United Methodist Church is able to make itself present and available to the community people see that grace. They feel that presence.”
Children featured in this story attend Metro Nashville public schools. If your church is interested in starting a virtual school, follow your church guidelines for any background checks on volunteers who work with children.
Related video: 134-Year-Old Church Becomes Virtual School