The Boys and Girls Clubs of Whatcom County will offer distance learning assistance and licensed daycare at several sites in the county, with possible expansion to Blaine.
Project Connect, the new K-6 program, will start by helping students access remote learning at the organization’s chapters in Bellingham and Ferndale. The Ferndale clubhouse is the only location open for enrollment, but the organization will open the Bellingham site when enrollment reaches 48 kids in Ferndale, said Heather Powell, CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Whatcom County. To date, 20 of the 60 spots in the Ferndale location have been filled since registration opened August 21.
Families in the Blaine and Lynden school districts, where Project Connect has not started, are encouraged to register their child in another clubhouse in the county, and if enough demand allows, the organization will try to open other locations.
“Our role is to be an advocate for the kids who need us the most in the community and right now we’re trying to solve an equity issue for the communities we serve,” Powell said.
A number of Blaine families said they would benefit from, or need, childcare in the organization’s survey that was sent July 31 from the Blaine school district to families. But of those survey participants, only a small percentage said they would be willing to pay up to $150 per week for all-day childcare, Powell said.
The cost of Project Connect varies every month between $350-550 per month for fulltime enrollment and $264-429 for enrollment three days per week, according to the organization’s website.
Based on the surveys, the demand for childcare in Blaine was greater than Ferndale, but less than Lynden or Bellingham. But the program will start in Ferndale because the Blaine location still needs to determine if it can use its pavilion, which is shared with three other organizations, Powell said. Once the organization knows if it has access to the pavilion, it will then need to address WiFi challenges in the building.
The program will run from 8 a.m.–2 p.m. on weekdays, followed by an afterschool program until 5 p.m. Lunch and snacks will be provided.
Students and staff will be screened with questions and temperature checks before entering clubhouses and the buildings will be cleaned to CDC guidelines. Students must have a temperature under 99 degrees and then immediately wash their hands for 20 seconds before entering their room. Masks will be provided and physical distancing will be required for staff and students.
Powell said she saw children build sanitation routines during the organization’s summer programs and benefit from interacting with other kids.
“We’ve seen kids be happy to connect with other kids, even from a six-to-10-foot distance,” Powell said.
The organization will work with the Whatcom County Health Department if a clubhouse is exposed to Covid-19, Powell said.
Up to 12 students are allowed per classroom. Enrollment is on a first-come, first-serve basis but the organization will look at the need of families on scholarship applications, Powell said.
“We’re providing a service to people who are called on to go to work,” she said. “Schools are very large. The clubhouse is not large so we’re bringing far fewer children, serving a few is easier and safer than opening a school.”
For more information, visit whatcomclubs.org.