HEART opens despite campus closures

ProYouth offers all-day, day camps for K-8 students in Exeter and Visalia during the fall semester

VISALIA – Parents in Exeter and Visalia worrying where their kids will go during the day when school begins on Aug. 10 and 13, respectfully, will have a familiar option for their students to find academic support, socialization and enrichment activities.

Dr. Marie Pinto, CEO of ProYouth/HEART, said the program currently had enough capacity to take every K-8 student that wanted to attend the program in Visalia and Exeter. She said her organization will be running day camps with drop off as early as 7:45 a.m. and pick up as late as 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Similar to when schools reopen, Pinto said students will be required to have their temperature checked before entering the facility each day and every student in third grade and up will be required to wear a mask for the entire day, with the exception of water, snack and lunch breaks. Students will also be expected to bring their district-issued devices to the day camps where ProYouth staff can help them log on, navigate software and assist with their academics. All of the sites are equipped with Wi-Fi for students to access lessons, assignments and resources.

“We are assisting with lessons, not teaching them,” Pinto clarified. “We are not teachers, and we are not teaching lessons.”

Pinto said the state has also granted an appeal by ProYouth to have less stringent rules as parents, many of them teachers, scramble to navigate hybrid school schedules and split work days. For the first time ever, ProYouth programs will be able to fund programs while schools have instructional time to make a full-day program, parents can pick up their children anytime without providing paperwork for early release exemptions and the organization is allowed to have a better student-adult ratio of 10 to 1 instead of 20 to 1 to create smaller cohorts for social distancing.

“It’s a big, logistical puzzle,” Pinto said, “and we are doing our best to figure it all out.”

ProYouth did not have to hire any new employees because many students have made arrangements to be on distance learning for the entire semester and they are operating less sites than normal because the day camps will not be offered at nearly every VUSD campus.

“We can utilize the staff we already have to make it work,” Pinto said.

The biggest issue facing the nonprofit afterschool program has been finding enough space to house students while maintaining social distancing. Pinto said Exeter students will attend day camp and the afterschool program at their school campus like they always have. VUSD is not allowing students on campus, not even for day camps, but ProYouth has been able to secure at least three sites at churches and community centers. Pinto said some of the transportation issues were still being worked out for when campuses reopen, as of press time, so she could not say exactly where the three sites are located but hoped to make those announcements by this Friday.

“We will have sort of a rolling implementation to house every student for now,” Pinto said. “We always have some retention by the end of the semester but we may not have space for everyone at some point so we may need to secure more facilities.”

Day camp applications can be downloaded and submitted online at proyouthexpandedlearning.org/day-camp. Anyone with questions regarding day camps and afterschool programs for elementary and middle school students can contact Marie Pinto by calling 559-972-0390 or emailing [email protected].

Start typing and press Enter to search