COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - With many classes back in session, many students are still spending part of – if not the entire week – at home. This, as many parents are needing to work outside the home. Now some South Carolina churches are stepping in to offer some support.
This includes the Riverland Hills Baptist Church in Irmo. The church is part of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, which has put out a call to all of its more than 2,000 churches to consider providing these services, if possible, as a way to support their communities.
This coming after a memo, Aug. 18, from State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman encouraging organizations that already offer some sort of afterschool program to step in and help assist working parents during these difficult times.
This school year, there are growing concerns surrounding students who may not have to physically report to school, but are still needing help with their virtual instruction. Meanwhile, parents may not be home or have the time while working remotely to help with this.
Angela McNeal is the director of church and community ministries with the SC Baptist Convention.
She said, “We knew as schools began to start back that there would be parents who were working and children would be home alone and we already knew that there was an issue,” McNeal continues, “even when parents could be home with their students back in the spring, that parents still needed support even with the eLearning and so, we thought a child could be dropped off in the morning as if they were going to school. They could even have breakfast there. They can have supervised learning experience.”
Churches will first need to apply for a Certificate of Temporary Operation (CTO). WIS-TV first reported on these in early August. CTOs are an option offered by the Department of Social Services (DSS) to provide alternative child care options during the pandemic.
Many churches now considering providing this eLearning support will be able to use the setup already in place from offering some sort of afterschool program in the past, but this year their help may be needed in a different way. Through a CTO approval, McNeal says parents can be assured their students are in a safe environment.
“They have to have the fire marshal, have the health inspection. They’ve got their background checks. They’re going to be looking at how many children can we have in a room to safely distance,” said McNeal.
McNeal also says faith communities, “can provide support and encouragement and help to these children all day long, not just for 30 minutes a week and so, that’s part of that – what can we do now? How do we adjust to the times and how do we step in and help?”
In the memo sent out by Superintendent of Education Spearman, she suggests that school districts and churches partner up. This way districts may be authorized to use funding from the CARES Act to support what are being called Off-site Learning Centers (OLC).
McNeal says these partnerships would also allow parents to securely sign up for these services through the school.