DANBURY – The COVID-19 shutdown of Danbury schools has hit especially hit hard in the homes of the working poor, where kids can’t always connect to online classes, and where parents can’t afford to miss work to supervise children at home.
A Christian-based nonprofit is helping to meet the challenge by providing at-risk kids a place during the school day to take online classes, with the support of staff and volunteers.
“The first day of our remote support program, one little first-grade girl was in tears because her computer screen went black and she couldn’t see her teacher,” said Carrie Amos, president of the Danbury-based nonprofit Jericho Partnership, “It was heartbreaking to see her distress – she kept saying ‘I didn’t do anything, I didn’t do anything.’”
The girl’s screen was fixed within minutes by a Jericho staff member. The girl is among 25 kids in kindergarten through 5th grade who take their distance learning classes at Jericho. Another 20 Danbury public school kids are on the waiting list until the nonprofit can find more volunteers and space to house them with proper social distancing and infection controls.
In addition, 125 at-risk kids in grades six through 12 have been receiving remote schoolwork support from Jericho since March, when the coronavirus turned Danbury upside down.
The remote school support program, launched in late September, is part of a larger COVID-19 response by Jericho Partnership and the 26 greater Danbury churches that help fund it.
The larger effort, known as Jericho 360, is collection of outreach programs designed to put the personal interaction back into the non-profit’s initiatives that has been taken away by the coronavirus.
“Everyone is so stressed by COVID,” said Amos. “The ripple effect of COVID is incredible.”
Features of the Jericho 360 initiative include virtual collaborations for kids about subjects such as designing drone missions, a tripling of the number of families receiving meals from Jericho’s food pantry, a new series of life-readiness workshops about everything from cooking to starting a coffee business, and a spiritual mentoring ministry.
The launch of Jericho’s 360 initiative comes as a second wave of coronavirus infection crests in Danbury, Connecticut and the nation.
In Danbury, schools will remain closed and all students will continue to attend class remotely until at least mid-January, to keep the crisis from getting worse.
“We are really worried about the social and emotional effect on our kids,” schools Superintendent Sal Pascarella said on Tuesday.
The key for the city’s neediest kids is to support the whole family, said Amos.
“We are seeing small wins already, with the emotional stress levels starting to come down,” said Amos. “These families are so thankful.”
Jericho is looking for volunteers to be tutors, workshop providers, reading buddies, mentors and language support translators.