Liberal, KS

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SCCC Cancels Kids College

Joe Denoyer - May 7, 2020 3:40 pm

LIBERAL, Kan. — As part of the rhythms of a normal year at Seward County Community College, early spring means choosing a theme for the ever-popular Kids College, which gives children ages first- through eighth grade an opportunity to sample the college experience through fun, hands-on classes during a summer-vacation week. This year, though, COVID-19 shifted the focus of Kids College 20/20 to safety over fun.

To make a great Kid’s College, explained B&I program coordinator Sarah Thompson, “we have to make plans and prepare far in advance, starting with recruiting teachers and other adults with specific skills to teach these sessions.” This year, everyone has been preoccupied with surviving an international pandemic, and there’s no guarantee about when, and if, things will reopen.

While USD 480 and the college itself shifted to remote methods for teaching regular coursework for the duration of the academic year, “that is not an option for Kids College, which appeals to children and parents because of the on-site, hands-on classes,” said Thompson. It might be possible to practice spelling words and master math skills at a computer monitor, but learning archery, operating a metal detector, and threading a sewing machine are not easily duplicated in a virtual learning environment. Several of the most popular Kids College subjects are impossible to deliver online, including fishing and swimming.

For young students who are craving interaction with peers and instructors, the main attraction of Kids College might have been the face to face nature of the week-long event. So too the parents whose daily lives have been rearranged to something that resembles an endless summer break. Yet that aspect, Dodge said, presented the main obstacle.

“The unknowns of hosting hundreds of children on a campus that has been closed for COVID-19 are a challenge,” Dodge said. “The maintenance crew has already upped their game in operations, but we are using tables for crafts. How would we sanitize everything between the daily sessions? For check-ins, we require parents to actually come into the building to make sure the children are safe, and that is difficult when you are trying to practice social distancing.”

In the end, said Dodge and Thompson, the decision was tough but necessary.

“We are hoping to plan some weekend sessions for the Kids College age group, maybe during the fall and winter, or on days when public school is not in session,” said Dodge. “It isn’t a substitute by any means, more of a work in progress, but we are really hoping that Kids College will be back again next summer, better than ever.”


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