Dance studio becomes a classroom for remote learners

Ark City Dance is moving to a new beat.
Dance studio becomes a classroom for remote learners
Published: Sep. 16, 2020 at 6:27 PM CDT
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ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. (KWCH) -This school year is throwing a lot at parents, students and teachers as families turn their homes into classrooms.

In Arkansas City, a dance studio is providing another option for those kids learning online.

“Sometimes, you might do this. You might think of what five times two is and then add two more to that,” said retired teacher and tutor Cathy Wilcox.

At Ark City Dance, the class is in session, and the lesson retired teacher Cathy Wilcox is teaching Michael, one of the students, are multiplication tables.

Wilcox said, “I feel like the students are excited to be here because they know someone is going to help me if I need it.”

The classroom where Wilcox is teaching right now is at Ark City Dance, where owner Jennifer Watkins has opened the Learning Hub.

“We have these big studios that nothing really goes on during the day,” said Ark City Dance owner Jennifer Watkins. “So [we thought], how could we utilize that with the community and the parents that need something right now with the hybrid learning model that so many kids are having to go to.”

The model was developed in partnership with affiliated dance studios.

In Ark City, the school district is starting the year in a hybrid format. That means that students are split up into two groups, with one group going in-person Monday and Tuesday and the other learning online. That switches on Thursday and Friday. And on Wednesday, the entire district is remote.

Watkins said, “Basically the kids are online three days a week, so what we have is the parents can pick one, two or three days a week that they would come. They would drop their kids off, and it’s from 8 to 10:30 in the morning, and then we provide the assistance based off their grade level, the assistance they need for their school work.”

At the Learning Hub, students can come to connect with their remote classes and get some help with the lessons and assignments.

“This is the first full week of school that we’ve had, so right now, we only have about ten kids in it, but we keep getting more phone calls every day about it. So, I think people are realizing how much work it actually is.” Watkins said, “They’re trying to make sure that kids are receiving a full day worth of education and so the kids are actually online a lot. I think the parents are realizing that they just need more assistance because parents are leaving and going to work.”

“You’re trying to help them understand their schedules. They have certain times they meet with their teachers. They have certain skills that they have to be working on that alone they might go I don’t get it. With someone helping and assisting and making sure they’re on task and that they’re understanding what’s going on,” said Wilcox.

The service utilizes retired teachers and college students studying education to be there for the kids.

“We have first graders that are learning their letters and how to read. So, they have those teachers who are beside them and assisting them,” said Watkins.

It’s open to families in the Arkansas City School District and includes safety precautions like mask-wearing, sanitization and social distancing.

The whole is to keep kids focused on getting the most out of their education and helping parents during this difficult time.

“We have two fourth-graders that have completely different formats and things they have to do, so that definitely makes it difficult and so I can understand the parent’s frustration.” Watkins said, “For them to be able to pull up, drop their kids off, and know that their school work is going to be completed.”

There is a fee for enrolling. Watkins said it’s to make sure the teachers are compensated for their time.

“I think that’s probably, especially in certain demographics that is definitely something that hold people back because there have been a lot of people who have been laid off from their jobs and we realize that but at the same time, we want to make sure that we are compensating the people who are coming in and assisting these kids.” Watkins said, “We feel like that’s definitely an important part.”

She added, “We also had to do things people don’t realize and think about like the wifi. We had to make sure that we had an ample amount of wifi to make sure that all kids could come in and get on Chromebooks, and there were not any issues.”

Parents can sign up online, in-person at Ark City Dance or calling the studio.

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