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College of Saint Mary creates innovative ‘Kids Club’ to support CSM families

Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020

KETV Newswatch 7'This is a life saver for me': College of Saint Mary finds way to ease burden of staff and student parents

OMAHA, Neb. – College of Saint Mary (CSM) recently launched a program to help ease some of the stress brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The ‘CSM Kids Club’ is designed to support students, faculty, and staff while their children have moved to a remote learning environment this fall.

Now, parents – especially CSM students – can focus on their studies and work without having to worry about finding childcare, while knowing their child’s e-learning is being facilitated by college education students. The program is provided free of charge with the help of CSM education students who need hands-on field experience, at a time when access to local schools has been curtailed by the pandemic.

“We wanted some way to ensure students and parenting staff and faculty have the opportunity to stabilize their lives in a time of uncertainty,” says Barbara Treadway, director of single parent success at the college. “The program cares for their children as a school would—where they can still learn and engage in a hands-on way.”

The format simulates a real classroom environment, which means no drop-ins or visitors and children arriving on time each day. “The continuity of care in a stable, structured environment is conducive to learning as they would in a school,” says Treadway.

So far, more than 40 kids have been registered for the program, which serves children in grades K-6 whose elementary school has moved to a remote learning model. CSM has reserved four of its classrooms for the program and is exploring opportunities to expand if needed.

“These kids can now complete their remote learning in a safe and supervised environment when their parents can’t be home with them,” says Lori Boyle, CSM Kids Club Coordinator. Children log onto their computer to access live video and lesson plans, while two CSM students are available in each room to facilitate the learning and troubleshoot any issues that may arise.

Boyle says she’s proud the college is giving its community this opportunity – especially its students. “It’s paramount that these women continue their education and continue to be supported towards their goals. It just makes sense to have their children here on campus learning while they are striving to do the same.”

Kids Club is open from 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Children must be signed in and out by their parent or guardian each day in Madonna Hall Conference Room on the east end of campus. The child’s temperature is taken each day prior to entry to ensure there is no fever. Parents must ensure their child arrives with a mask, as they are required at all times in the classroom.

The program includes children from Omaha Public Schools, Millard Public Schools, Ralston Public Schools, Westside Community Schools, Holy Name School, and St. Columbkille Catholic School in Papillion.

“Each district has a different plan for their kids. Being able to facilitate the different learning protocols for the classroom environment is a challenge, but we’ve stepped up,” said Treadway.

She says without the support and encouragement from leadership, this wouldn’t have happened. “It’s one thing to have an idea; it’s another to bring it to life. At CSM, we make things happen if they’re going to help our students.”

The program also provides a way for CSM elementary education students to receive valuable field experience hours required for their degree.

“It gives them a fantastic perspective of remote learning,” says Dr. Paula Peal, director of the teacher education programs at CSM. “Our students can see first-hand how a teacher is instructing and developing curriculum fit for a remote setting. It’s a tremendous experience for aspiring teachers in this ever-changing climate.”

So far, more than 15 elementary education majors have signed up to help with the program. “For the kids, it’s also a win/win,” adds Peal. “Once they’re finished with their remote session, they can transition to working on their lessons with a person face-to-face.”

Treadway says the program could evolve and expand depending on the actions of local schools.

“We’re going to make it work,” adds Treadway. “We’re going to keep Kids Club open as long as we need to and are able to. Staying flexible will continue to be important. But we must always keep our students and staff at the forefront. They’re our heartbeat. By providing the best possible resources and care, ensuring their kids and families are taken care of, means we can all be successful.”

The university is still seeking volunteers to help with the new program. If you are interested, please contact Barb Treadway at btreadway [at] csm.edu. CSM Kids Club began in full session last Monday.