By Brianna Stephens
The staff of Christian Appalachian Project’s (CAP) Child and Family Development Center (CFDC) in Mt. Vernon is staying flexible during an unconventional school year to help young children in Appalachia reach their highest potential.
“We want to make sure the children get the best possible start in life,” said Sharon Goff, manager of the center. “During this difficult time, the families need a connection or normalcy. We check in with the families weekly. We make sure they do not need anything or need to talk.”
Students at the center began virtual learning in September because of the ongoing pandemic, but briefly attended in-person classes for six days in October. Several precautions were taken to keep students and staff safe. Those included reducing the number of students enrolled at the center from 34 to 25, taking and documenting temperatures as students got on the bus or were dropped off at the school, and sanitizing buses after each run. Staff were required to wear masks, but students did not have to because they are under 5 years old.
“The staff, students, and families have been amazing with the change,” Goff said. “They understand the temperature checks and the precautions we have in place to protect the families.”
Due to the increase in COVID-19 cases throughout Rockcastle County, CFDC students were back to virtual learning by the end of October. Now staff continue to work in-person at the center and virtual lessons are done Monday through Thursday. Each Monday the staff deliver all the materials needed for the week to the students. On Tuesday students participate in story time, Wednesday is circle time and activity time, and Thursday is a review of the week and name writing. The staff use the app Remind to share links to the lessons with families. A private YouTube channel is also used.
The CFDC provides center-based and home-based programs for children from infancy to 5 years old. CAP offers opportunities for youth to reach their highest potential by providing cognitive, physical, spiritual, and emotional support through a range of services to ensure each child can succeed. The center also provides parents with resources to help their child grow and learn these skills. In a region with relatively few high-quality child development centers, the CFDC creates a place for local children that is safe and educational.