Blaine County public school children will return to school on September 8th under a plan that has them in class two days a week, while learning from home the other three days. Local families join others across the nation feeling anxious and overwhelmed, with few good options for their kids on the days when they are not physically in school. Remote school three days a week requires hands-on help from an adult at home. The Wood River Community YMCA, with the backing of several incredible community supporters, is stepping up to meet this extraordinary challenge.

For years, the Y has provided after-school care for K-5 children through its Kid’s Club at its Ketchum facility and in elementary schools in Hailey and Bellevue. This fall, the Y will be transforming and leveraging up this program to an all-day offering and quadrupling its capacity to meet the increasing need in the community. In addition to repurposing its after-school spaces, the Y is repositioning staff and space at its Ketchum facility to accommodate as many students as possible when they are not in class.

Through the generosity of several key supporters, the Y will increase its capacity to provide this all-day offering by opening the doors of the Mint Building on Main Street in Hailey. With its central location, two floors of space, outside patio and proximity to Hop Porter Park, the Mint will be a beehive of activity for kids in the heart of Hailey.

The Y is uniquely positioned to provide critical leadership and pivoted quickly to face this challenge. Through the first-hand experience of running a School-in-Session Program last spring, the Power Scholars Academy at Bellevue Elementary this summer and after adding literacy programming to Day Camps this summer, the Y has adopted the highest safety protocols and procedures to keep all kids and staff as safe as possible. Like all Y programs, no participant will be turned away for lack of ability to pay.

The program’s primary growth constraint will be the Y’s ability to attract additional Youth Program Leaders. The Y believes that with each new hire, they can create the opportunity for ten additional kids to participate in the program. As a further inducement to attract staff, the Y is offering free program access to all staff children or siblings. If you know a college student who is home, or someone who wants to help in these critical times for youth development, please encourage them to apply for these positions and be part of a community solution for our kids.

A recent New York Times article “I’m Only One Human Being: Parents Brace for a Go-It-Alone School Year”, explained that “Parents across America are facing the pandemic school year feeling abandoned.” Thanks to the Y’s nimble leadership and clear mission to help close the opportunity gaps in our community, many families will have a place to turn.

Michael Schlatter is the board chair of the Wood River Community YMCA.

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