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Programs Offer Students a Place to Learn on Distance Learning Days

Distance learning programs are now underway at the Mystic Aquarium, Camp Ingersoll and Norwich Recreation Department.

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With school districts across Connecticut operating on a hybrid model of learning, some parents are left with child care concerns.

“Two days in school- the big question mark was what do we do with the kids for the other three days?” explained Bob Kilpatrick, a program coordinator for the Norwich Recreation Department.

To answer that question, various organizations across the state have started hosting day programs to support students on distance learning days.


When Norwich Public Schools announced that they were operating in a hybrid model for back to school, the recreation department started hearing from parents who were concerned about child care.

“We knew we needed to provide some sort of program for kids in this hybrid model," said Kilpatrick.

Building off the Norwich Recreation Department's summer camp, the rec department is now hosting a brand new day program. The program runs Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. There is space for 16 children at each site, with the potential to host students at four different sites.

Students complete their online coursework, guided by staff, and are able to complete recreation programs when schoolwork is completed.

"A blend of recreational activities, overseeing their homework and making sure they are logged on when they need to be," explained Amanda Herzog, a program supervisor.

The department was able to hire five employees to help run the program. The program costs $30 a day. A scholarship is available. More information can be found here.

“We are going to keep this program going as long as the community needs it," said Kilpatrick.


The Mystic 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 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 Kelly Matis, Vice President of Education and Conservation.

Mystic Aquarium is a state-licensed child care 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.

Students can sign up for two, three or five days a week. The program started Monday, but more space is available.

“We are understanding the incredible complexity that comes with students learning from home. The instructors are tracking when each child has their live meets. They are really staying on top of making sure students are meeting those goals," said Matis.

The aquarium is also expanding its high school internship program. More information on the eight week program can be found here.


YMCA's Camp Ingersoll in Portland is in week three of their day program to support hybrid learners. Families are able to register for the hybrid/distance learning program by the day. They have been averaging about 20 students a day, with Wednesday being the busiest day.

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.

Director of the camp, Ben Silliman, said that the biggest lesson so far is, "you just have to be flexible.”

Students are split into cohorts at the beginning of the week, according to Silliman. Registration is open for October now. With colder weather approaching and limited indoor space, it is unclear what will happen next for the program. Silliman said that they will continue to maintain flexibility.

"We will make the adjustments that we need to, to make sure that we are providing this service for as long as we can," said Silliman.

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