The ever-changing conditions of the coronavirus pandemic has forced schools across the state, and Georgia’s Lake Country, to come up with creative solutions to educate students and Madison’s LakePoint Community Church is rising to the challenge providing a Virtual Learning Lab open to area students.
“The idea came to mind shortly after learning that schools nearby were becoming all virtual,” said LakePoint Community Church Children’s Director Leanne Howell. “Parents were frantic trying to decide between work and their children’s education. A few days later, our church staff met and lo and behold one of our pastors asked if there was something the church could do to help the working parents and students. That’s when the idea was introduced and it began to unfold.”
Howell, a former elementary school teacher and parent, decided she would head up the church’s effort. On Thursday, Sept. 3, the church hosted an open house for its virtual learning center. During the open house, students and parents were able to meet the staff and complete the necessary forms needed for the students to attend.
“LakePoint Community Church wanted to offer this program to provide a safe alternative learning environment for students to attend and parents can return to work,” Howell said. “We also wanted to share our Internet service with students who may not have access at home, while at the same time provide an opportunity for students to spend time with their peers, socially distant of course.”
Currently, the virtual learning center has 15 students enrolled. However, the church has space for up to 30 students in grades kindergarten to fifth grade. All the current students are from Newton County.
“We have offered Tuesdays and Thursdays for these students,” Howell said. “We left Monday, Wednesday and Friday available in the instance that Morgan County schools need to move to an all-virtual environment.”
Recently, the church decided to open the virtual learning center for the scheduled Morgan County virtual school days. The church has space for 30 students grades kindergarten through fifth grade to attend. Registration is open through Sept. 18 for Morgan County’s Sept. 25 and 28 virtual learning days and can be done online at http://bit.ly/mocolearning.
Howell said the program is “ideal for digital learners needing oversight to ensure focus and engagement with school assignments and projects.”
The virtual learning center didn’t just spring up over night. The church began by putting out a survey to find out how many families were interested in the program and to establish the basic needs moving forward. Once registration was open, Howell said families began registering right away.
The program was then announced to the church congregation and church members began volunteering to help.
“Through our congregation, we hired our entire LakePoint virtual learning staff,” Howell said. “We even found volunteers to help keep our students socially distant.”
Howell said Tommy McFarlin supplied and cut Plexiglas for their dividers. Herschel Mauldin and Ty Howell created the stands for the dividers. Pastors Danny Harrell and Jeff Rogers will be among those supervising the learning center. Church members Kelly Curtis, Anne Harper, Laura Herlihy, Valerie Schuitema and Howell will also be there to supervise.
LakePoint worship pastor Justin Kennedy is considered the IT support and will be around to maintain the network and programs the students will be using to virtually learn. Julie Vice has volunteered to create fun activities for Bible memorization during break time. Curtis has also volunteered to drive the church van to meet the parents and pick up the students in Newton County and drop them back off at the end of the day.
“We would love to invite community helpers to our virtual learning center to teach students about the important roles in our community, for example a police officer, fireman, farmer, dental hygienist, doctor or truck driver,” Howell said. “Once students finish lunch, we have time to enjoy visitors.”
If a community member is interested, Howell said to email her at Leanne@lakepoint.cc.
“I look forward to seeing the students work in the learning environment we’ve created and once again see them connect with their peers,” Howell said. “Social interaction is so important. I also look forward to seeing our staff and volunteers play an important role in these students’ lives. Our hope is to create a safe, healthy and equipped learning environment for these students and show the love of Jesus.”
Howell said that as the virtual learning center evolves there might be a need for donations to support students who are in need of attending. In the event that Morgan County moves to all-virtual-learning more volunteers and staff members will likely be needed. However, Howell said time would tell.
“We are thankful for a community who has reached out to do what they can to help,” Howell said. “This is what the ‘church’ is about. I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together. We believe that a child’s education is very important. ‘We the church’ are here to support our children by showing love and compassion. Please be in prayer for our LakePoint Virtual Learning Center in the coming weeks.”