Thousands of students across Connecticut are getting ready to go back to school on a hybrid model during the pandemic. School districts across the state are offering in-person learning two days a week and online learning three days a week, creating a childcare gap for many.
"The first thing that comes to mind is, what do I do to keep my kid on track scholastically, emotionally, socially?" said Blair Quasnitschka, a father from Cromwell.
Quasnitschka will send his two sons to a new hybrid/distance learning program at the YMCA's Camp Ingersoll in Portland to complete their virtual learning.
The program is designed to allow students to complete their online curriculum on-site, with help from counselors. In addition to their online learning, students will be able to participate in traditional camp activities like swimming and rope courses.
"We are going to balance that development that they need from an academic standpoint with the social impact that they can have at camp," said Ben Silliman, director of Camp Ingersoll.
Details are still being worked out, but the staff will build off of the COVID-19 safety protocols that they used for summer camp.
"That peace of mind for a parent is invaluable," said Quasnitschka.
Mystic Aquarium is hoping to offer parents the same peace of mind.
"We want to be part of the solution," said Vice President of Education and Conservation Kelly Matis.
The aquarium is hosting a day program for students, kindergarten through grade seven. Students are invited to complete their virtual learning assignments on-site. A team of educators will guide and support students during their school-assigned online curriculum.
"Your kids are having a safe and supportive place that experienced educators are really walking them through and making sure they are supported in their online learning, but also have such a great enriching opportunity outside of that," said Matis.
When school work is completed, students will be able to benefit from other programs the aquarium has to offer, including tours and animal interactions.
Mystic Aquarium is a state-licensed childcare facility. According to Matis, they will follow all COVID-19 safety guidelines that local school districts are following. The aquarium also hosted children for a summer camp over the last few months using COVID-19 safety protocols.