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How local program keeps students on track during pandemic

Published: Jul. 1, 2020 at 6:43 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Transitioning from in-person classes to virtual learning was hard. Some students had a really difficult time with it.

But when the coronavirus pandemic hit, the Dream Academy — a summer and after-school program with Columbia County Community Connections — stepped up to make sure no kid falls behind.

“I think this really showed us how much it takes a village to just come together in times like this and fill in those gaps for each other,” said Fancy Peterson, development officer with Columbia County Community Connections.

Parent Cherita Jones said: “Trying to balance that and fit that into the normal life at home with cooking and cleaning and having them at home has been definitely a challenge and an adjustment.”

That’s an adjustment her daughter Kiana feels, too.

“I think it was tough to learn at home,” Kiana said.

“If we had to ask questions, then it’s like they wouldn’t exactly get the answers, but we could still text them or something like that.”

Betty Kelley, their teacher and the director of the Dream Academy, said the whole program was adjusted to engage students in creative ways while they’re home and get them where they need to be academically.

The Dream Academy serves students from North Harlem Elementary and Euchee Creek Elemetary, with priority enrollment for students in foster care. The program is funded by the Department of Family and Children Services.

Along with math tutoring, making slime and physical activities, checking in on students mentally is important, too.

“They also had a COVID-19 booklet capsule that they were supposed to complete, and some did,” Kelley said. The students recorded their experiences and put down their feelings and their families’ feelings as they drew and wrote in the booklet.

And while they're making the best of the situation, teachers say they're hopeful they can see the students again soon.

“We did anything we could to just uplift their spirits and make them know we miss them, we love them and wanted to make sure that they were happy,” Kelley said.

The Dream Academy is planning an academic summer camp from July 13-31. It will be in person, but with a reduced number of students.

The after-school program is also set to resume, with reduced class sizes, as well.

Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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