Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Ohio (BGCNEO) is providing in-person help for kids in digital-only education environments by creating at least 11 school-day learning centers in Clubs across the region, including the Steve Wise Club in Akron.
Jeff Scott, BGCNEO’s president and CEO, said the organization has opened ClubSmart Learning Centers in Cleveland, Lorain County, Akron and Sandusky to coincide with the beginning of the school year. Each site will have laptop computers for the children and Internet access.
BGCNEO believes the ClubSmart Learning Centers could serve as many as 1,000 kids per day.
At the centers, Club staff members are serving as adult proctors to help children complete their schoolwork and provide additional stress-relieving programs like art, writing and athletics.
Scott said BGCNEO feels the centers can curb academic loss and bridge the digital divide.
“Our kids need our help,” he said. “The digital divide in Northeast Ohio puts so many of our kids and our families at a disadvantage. We understand there is risk in what we’re doing. We also know there is long-term risk from academic loss and even kids dropping out.”
Scott added, “We feel it is our duty to create a safe place for kids to connect digitally and to ease the burden on working parents.”
Scott noted that Northeast Ohio is the fourth-worst connected region in the U.S.; in some neighborhoods, 70 percent of the households do not have broadband Internet access. More than a quarter of all households in the region are without Internet access.
BGCNEO closed all its Clubs when the pandemic hit in March. The organization reopened nine Clubs in June after establishing social distancing and cleaning protocols, lowering the maximum capacities at all sites and reducing staff-to-member ratios. Scott said having kids and staff in buildings during the summer gave BGCNEO valuable insights into safety measures.