Club focuses on Covid-19 learning gap
The United Boys & Girls Club, Carpinteria is searching for a new assistant director among other club staff, CEO Michael Baker confirmed.
“The number one thing for us is we really need a strong assistant director in Carpinteria,” he said. “We’ve been looking to fill the position. Ideally, I would want someone who is a little green, because they’re going to be trained by our existing club director, who is retiring at the end of the year. That would be number one on my list for the Carpinteria Club without question.”
Baker said it has been difficult to hire staff during the Covid-19 pandemic, and that he needs a “steady hand” in the position for the club to continue to help kids.
The club welcomed back students ahead of the school year, at a modified capacity due to social distancing restrictions. Typically, the club sees 130 kids a day in non-Covid-19 times – now, the club is seeing 70 or 80 kids a day, most of whom are struggling after a year of distance learning.
“We’ve been operating in summer mode (capacity) for the past 14 to 15 months,” Baker said. “It’s been challenging.”
He added that he has seen a large learning gap that appeared during Zoom learning.
“At our Carpinteria (Boys & Girls Club), 60% of our members are on free or reduced lunch, which means they live on or below the poverty line. When you factor in that those kids weren’t able to go to traditional schooling, (it’s been difficult),” he explained.
“Kids are struggling as it is. That visual, hands-on touch, you don’t get that through Zoom. These kids have grown further and further behind.”
To remedy that, the club will be focusing heavily on the educational component over the next few months, pushing its traditional homework assistance programs, such as Freckle, an educational program that helps students with Math and ELA.
Baker added that he has seen a lot of feedback from parents who are eager to help their children recover from the struggles of distance learning, and who were “grateful” that the Boys & Girls Club could be a place for kids to go while their parents worked or searched for new jobs.
“(Our) overwhelming feedback was, ‘Thank God the Boys & Girls Club was here.’ For parents who lost their job in the pandemic, they need a place for their children to go. They would drop them off at 7:30 in the morning and we would make sure they got them in their programs, and they could pick them up at 6:30 p.m. at night,” Baker said.
Beyond an educational component, the club will be resuming its regular sports over the next few months, including flag football and soccer, to help students stay active.
But having the children back, despite rising Covid-19 cases in Santa Barbara County, has been beneficial for them, Baker explained.
“The children that came back (…) love seeing the staff again, being able to have fun with their friends that they would only see at the Boys & Girls Club,” he said.
“What means more to me and anyone else is the noise, the sounds of kids laughing, having fun. Our clubs were empty – when we were doing distance learning in conjunction with the schools – and very quiet, because obviously kids have to study. But hearing kids running around again, playing games… when you work in a Boys & Girls Club, and the whole focus is working with kids, it’s centered around fun. Hearing those sounds again is just like music to my ears.”
The club is operating on limited hours, between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. Learn more at unitedbg.org.