WORTHINGTON — Like the rest of ISD 518, Community Education has been adapting its programming based on the impact of COVID-19. Each of the five departments has adapted in different ways to meet the needs of our students and the community. Our focus has been first on health and safety for students and staff, and then on providing quality programming within the new guidelines from the Minnesota departments of health and education.

The Community Education Enrichment department has experienced the greatest change. Over the summer, the School-Aged Childcare for children of Tier I essential workers was reassigned to this department. Enrichment Program Coordinator Anne Foley has been working with the K-12 principals to assemble a staff of paraprofessionals to provide child care at the West Learning Center during both the hybrid and distance-learning delivery models. Talented paraprofessionals have been working diligently to provide a safe and educational environment for children who are here while their parents work in Tier I essential jobs. Currently, there are more than 110 children enrolled in the program.

In most school years, the Early Childhood department begins holding classes two weeks after the K-12 schools start. Like the K-12 system, early childhood staff prepared to start the year in a hybrid delivery model. However, by the time our start date arrived, the K-12 system was transitioning to a distance-learning model. The early childhood staff quickly changed course and started our year in a distance-learning delivery model. As you can imagine, starting preschool-aged children’s education in a distance-learning delivery model is very challenging. In spite of that, our early childhood staff members have stayed positive and worked diligently to connect with our preschool families.

In order to reduce the number of people in our building each week, we have decided not to offer in-person ECFE classes this year. Instead, the early childhood teachers and parent educators have created monthly themed boxes, called Discovery Boxes. Each month from October through May, a Discovery Box will be available to purchase. Inside each box are a variety of activities geared for children ages 2-4 years old and some parenting tips. The boxes are available in English and Spanish. The cost is $5/box for families with young children who live in District 518.

Adult Basic Education students transitioned to distance-learning last spring and continued in a distance-learning model through the summer. In September, teachers have been teaching classes via Zoom and meeting individually with students to complete orientations for new students or level testing for continuing students. ABE classes will begin to have in-person classes on Oct. 5, with a limited number of students. In order to offset having fewer students in the room, adult students will continue to participate in virtual instruction as well.

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The Community Connectors/Family Liaisons continue to accept drop-in appointments. We ask clients to come alone, rather than bringing additional family members along. Scheduled appointments are encouraged to reduce the number of people in the waiting area. In-person language support is available for Spanish and Karen-speaking clients. For other languages, a language line may be used.

The Nobles County Integration Collaborative's after-school programs will begin meeting in-person the week of Oct. 5. Due to social distancing practices, only six students will be able to participate in after-school programming each day. NCIC youth development leaders are providing homework help at their office every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Appointments are required. Middle school and high school students may call NCIC at 376-3300 to sign up for after-school programs and Wednesday homework help.

Community Education will continue to adapt throughout the year to meet the needs of our students and the community. Our staff is eager to provide in-person learning opportunities for students in October.

If you have questions about Community Education programs, please contact us at 507-376-6105.

Sharon Johnson is District's 518 community education director.