ALEXANDRIA, VA – Walked down Mount Vernon Avenue lately? If so, you’ve probably noticed the outdoor activity on school days. That’s because George Washington Middle School is a Virtual PLUS+ Childcare site.
Not only does ACPS provide the location, they also give students WiFi access and food. Every few hours, janitorial staff visit to clean surfaces.
“It’s a really cool and really creative program,” said Azza Humeida, a member of the support staff. “I spent the first few days getting to know the kids and getting to know their interests so if they need a little redirection to keep their focus, I know what will work.”
Every morning, from Tuesday to Friday, 35 students arrive at G.W. rain or shine. Until 2:30 p.m., children in kindergarten to fifth grade are occupied with Zoom classes under tents. In the event of rain, there is a large overhang in front of the school gym that can be used for shelter. When the weather turns colder, patio heaters and blankets will be used. The ASA program is scheduled to run at least through the first quarter.
A high staff to student ratio means that whenever a student needs a helping hand, or a gentle redirection, an adult is nearby to help. When someone needs a screen break, they are able to step away to throw around a football for a few minutes or be supervised on the playground.
Site director Emily Kruger said that once the school bell rings for the end of the day, downtime is the focus. The kids can play sports like kickball or soccer, or work on an arts and crafts projects. At 3:30, families arrive for pickup.
The ASA wants to do what it can for families during this time.
“It was a case of us saying, ‘What can we do to help?’ to support the kids beyond soccer,” said ASA Executive Director Tommy Park. “We started brainstorming [and]…knew we wanted to be outside, because that is what we are used to, and the idea quickly came together.”