Teacher Helping Student

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Jefferson County Public School board is set to vote Tuesday on a plan to open community in-person learning hubs for face-to-face help with online classes.

WDRB News obtained an advance copy of the district's proposed agreement with Evolve 502, along with a presentation that will be made to the board Tuesday night.

If approved, Evolve 502, would work with other nonprofits, churches and community centers to run small neighborhood instruction centers while NTI continues. Some faith-based organizations already launched similar programs like King Solomon Baptist Church near 16th and Anderson streets in west Louisville.

“A lot of social issues come into play. A lot of parents still have to continue to work,” King Solomon Youth Director Myron Wilkerson said. “As they go to work, at times their children are not able to log on or they do not have sufficient help or homework help.”

The church is using space in its basement, which already houses a technology lab with 3D printers. Wilkerson said it’s open to 25 JCPS students, Monday thru Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and includes breakfast and lunch served daily, all for free.

An adult volunteer was there Monday to assist 13-year-old King Godsent — an eighth-grader from W.E.B. Dubois Academy — when he needed assistance understanding he main theme in a Robert Frost poem.

“It's great, because I didn't have that at home,” Godsent said. “My sister just had her baby, so she stays at the hospital with the baby. And my mom is always at work.”

A similar program launched last week at Middletown United Methodist Church in east Louisville. Organizers said it’s a half-day learning hub from 8:30 a.m. to noon, and the 22 kids enrolled attend about 12 different JCPS elementary schools.

“I think it's so much harder to keep their attention on computer than in-person,” said Karoll Foreman, a former teacher’s assistant who helped a 5-year-old student stay on task online. “I don’t know that they’re getting everything they need like this (digitally).”

Education advocates in Louisville and nationwide have expressed concern about a widening achievement gap as some wealthier families turn to tutors and hire educators in a freelance capacity to teach small learning pods.

“We'll be here with our doors open,” said Amy Bishop, children's ministry director at Middletown United Methodist Church. “We want to be able to help the families in our community, whatever they need for as long as they need it.”

Under the JCPS partnership with Evolve 502, the district would provide 30 substitute teachers to staff the program, and student teachers from local universities would also be also be used to help guide in-person assistance. The plan says 50 locations could serve about and 2,000 at a cost of $200,000 for PPE and school supplies.

Retired JCPS principal Michelle Pennix offered a proposal to the district to manage an in-person learning assistance program, but she told WDRB News she is not engaged in the Evolve 502 agreement. Pennix aimed to target students with special needs, who learn differently or did not engage in digital instruction.

"The black church in the west end, Newburg, Shively is where many of those kids are found," Pennix said. "And it has the longest-standing reputation for doing the work in the 'hood that needs to be done."

Organizers from Middletown United Methodist Church and King Solomon Baptist Church said they both still have a handful of spots open in their in person learning programs.

Interested parents can contact Bishop at abishop@middletownumc.org or Myron Wilkerson at (502) 409-9607.

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