Kroc Academy partners with Memphis schools for virtual learning

By: Cleo Griffin

When virtual learning was announced for Shelby County Schools this fall in Memphis, Tennessee, an immediate solution was needed for many working families.

The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Memphis already had responded to a community need; since May, it had offered a Mobile Food Pantry in partnership with the Mid-South Food Bank, as well as free child care for health care professionals and first responders.

Major Everette Platt, Memphis area commander and senior Kroc officer, urged her staff to continue a COVID-19 response into the educational space and contacted members of the Shelby County School Board, offering the Memphis Kroc Center as a partner site for virtual learning.

The Kroc Center instantly received a positive response. Shortly thereafter, school officials challenged more community centers, churches and similar facilities to partner with them to offer safe places for children, ages kindergarten through seventh grade, to complete their studies virtually.

To serve as an educational site, Kroc Memphis needed an exemption from the Tennessee Department of Human Services. Youth Development Director Kenyota Ward applied for and secured the exemption within one business week for a maximum of 90 students. This approval also secured a commitment from the Shelby County schools to provide breakfast and lunch for students in the Kroc Academy program.

The first week, Kroc Memphis served 21 students. Week 2 saw 37 students attending. The program continues to grow.

The cost of Kroc Academy is $85 per week, and after care is $30 per week. Also, the Memphis Kroc Center will receive Tennessee CARES funding, allowing it to offer financial assistance to interested families.

Students’ daily schedules include safety screenings, virtual learning and class interaction, lunch/snack breaks and “brain breaks.” Staff and program aides help young people stay focused on school, troubleshoot technology and network issues, and provide activities during breaks and recess.

Kindergarten classes have more hands-on activities. Utilizing a half-day schedule, program aides offer supplemental learning to reinforce material provided by teachers, including letters, phonics, math, story time and recess.

Kroc Centers continue to provide innovative program changes to remain relevant to our communities and provide more opportunities in arts, education, recreation and worship.

Cleo Griffin is director of the Memphis Kroc Center.