Kroc Center helps ‘Anchor’ kids in virtual learning

By: Josie Showers and Marleen Mallory

Hebrews 6:19 (TNIV): “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”

“In these unknown days, the Anchor Learning Center stands as a secure place of support as we navigate this academic year successfully alongside our Kroc families.” The purpose statement for The Anchor Learning Center is the guide we use to ensure we are providing a safe learning environment for children to access their school’s virtual education while they are not physically attending school.

Late this summer, in response to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, the public school districts surrounding the Hampton Roads, Virginia, Kroc Center announced their virtual learning plans for the 2020-21 school year. This spurred the Kroc Center to step in to help families.

Within days, the Anchor Learning Center (ALC) became a reality. From day one, it has been at capacity, with a waiting list and daily receiving phone calls from interested families.

Enrollment was opened to the families participating in existing Kroc programming and membership. Our enrollment profile includes 22 children from 13 schools in two school districts. The program is intended for grades 1-5; however, there are two families of eligible students with siblings in sixth grade, and they have been able to join.

The Kroc Center provides staff to monitor and assist with virtual learning, school supplies as needed, internet access for virtual learning, computers for students who need them and additional activities outside of their scheduled school classes, such as crafts, music lessons and physical education. Our partnership with the USDA Food Bank Program and Food Bank of Southern Hampton Roads ensures our children receive breakfast and lunch, plus an afternoon snack each day.

The Kroc Center administration ensures government safety and health guidelines are followed, providing a safe environment for our students. Staff and families are asked a series of health questions each day, and students’ temperatures are checked upon arrival. Extra attention to cleaning, use of hand sanitizing stations and handwashing are a priority throughout the day. The students’ workstations are measured to be six feet apart (with the exception of siblings).

The week prior to the start of school was an intensive training week for staff much more accustomed to running summer camp. Training included several days of classroom management with an educational consultant, additional food bank training, Norfolk Public School virtual training for child care providers, training in health regulations specifically for COVID-19 and organizing creative activities for children when they are not actively engaged in online education.

The Anchor Learning Center is a vital part of our community. Two elementary school principals with students in the program have visited and expressed their gratitude.

Parents have been overwhelmingly thankful as well. Two families stated they were contemplating quitting their jobs to make sure their children could attend school; the ALC allowed them to stay employed and rest secure in their children’s education.

Also, 86 percent of the children in the program receive an income-based scholarship. The base rate for the program is $100 a week, and scholarships reduce families’ weekly outlay to $15 to $50. From the beginning, an important factor in the program’s development has been to ensure participation wasn’t limited because of the cost.

The Anchor Learning Center at the Kroc Hampton Roads is a vital part of the academic and developmental success of the students enrolled.

Josie Showers is program director and Marleen Mallory is assistant program director at The Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center of Hampton Roads. Related story: “The education gap was shrinking before COVID-19,”