Monday, July 16, 2018
Education

With schools closed for days, the scramble is on to keep kids occupied

TAMPA — Sweaty from running with neighborhood pals, 7-year-old Aiden Rodriguez paused beneath the shaded shelter at the Villa Rosa community park before heading back for more.

Hurricane Irma had kept them indoors for days, but now Aiden and his friends could spread out. They had been at play for four hours, with three moms keeping an eye on their children and those of other parents.

"A couple of kids, we're watching for the neighbors because they had to work," said one mother, Olivia Hart.

RELATED: 10 ways you can entertain stir crazy kids after the hurricane

Though the area's slow return to normalcy is a giant relief, the delayed reopening of schools until Monday presents a range of issues for families with children across Tampa Bay. Some are able to take advantage of the extra days off with fun activities, while parents who rely on schools for extended day care and nutritional needs are having to scramble.

"We're worried about our kids and our families," said Michelle Davenport, a kindergarten teacher at Kings Highway Elementary in Clearwater, which serves students three meals a day. "A lot of teachers worry because they know that school is a consistent place for our kids."

With power restored to some facilities, local governments are opening centers to accommodate parents. The City of Clearwater opened free "day out" camps, similar to summer camps, at North Greenwood Recreation Center and Countryside Recreation Center. And as of Thursday, the city of Tampa opened 20 parks and recreation facilities free of charge.

"Especially in a time of need like this, with still a lot of people without power, come enjoy the A/C and the pools," said John Allen, recreation manager for the city of Tampa. "It's an opportunity for the parents to drop them off like (they) would for a summer break camp, so parents can go to work."

The Glazer Children's Museum in Tampa opened its doors Wednesday so children from households still without power could get physical activity and reduce stress in the air conditioning.

Jennifer Stancil, president and CEO of the museum, said it's one way to bring normalcy back to families. By Wednesday afternoon, more than 600 children were playing at the museum.

"I know from reaching out to colleagues in Houston and Louisiana that in the recovery process for their communities, the children's museum has been a respite, a relief, a break for the community, the parents," Stancil said. "We're seeing weary, tired parents whose kids have been cooped up for a while."

Some workplaces have made arrangements for employees with children.

COMPLETE COVERAGE: Find all our coverage about Hurricane Irma here

The city of Clearwater opened The Long Center free of charge for children of city employees. Metro Wellness & Community Centers, a nonprofit group, created supervised spaces at their Tampa and St. Petersburg locations for children of employees to spend the day.

"Although we care for our clients and our community, it's important to care for our employees," said James Keane, director of LGBTQ programming and development for Metro Wellness. "In an effort to make things a little bit easier for our staff as needed, we've provided the opportunity to bring in their children."

It's a huge help for parents like Cassie Jordan, a behavioral health therapist who brought her 9-year-old daughter Rilee into work on Wednesday. Without the arrangement, Jordan would have had to advise clients dealing with depression and anxiety from home, via teleconferences.

"I'm fortunate I don't have to do that so I can bring my daughter with me," she said.

Contact Colleen Wright at [email protected] or (727) 893-8643. Follow @Colleen_Wright.

Comments
Hillsborough headed for a new mark: 25,000 charter school students

Hillsborough headed for a new mark: 25,000 charter school students

TAMPA — Three more charter schools will join the Hillsborough County system this year, pushing the number of students in these tax-funded, but privately operated institutions to well over 10 percent of the enrollment.District officials predict that 2...
Published: 07/13/18
District 3 candidates see challenges and potential for Pinellas schools

District 3 candidates see challenges and potential for Pinellas schools

A three-term incumbent, an educational specialist with a doctorate in school counseling and a teacher with 33 years of classroom experience are vying for the countywide District 3 seat on the Pinellas County School Board.All three have clear ideas on...
Published: 07/12/18

Pasco moms ask school district for more anti-discrimination efforts and training

Sheena Lofton-Huggins saw her son struggle this past year dealing with racism and prejudice at Mitchell High School. He didn’t have all the support he needed, Lofton-Huggins said, or the strategies to stand firm. When she sought to send her son to Co...
Published: 07/11/18
If they win this game show, young people can have their student debt paid off

If they win this game show, young people can have their student debt paid off

NEW YORK - Student debt afflicts as many as 44 million Americans, with the average student now carrying $37,000 in loans. The total amount owed in the United States exceeds $1.3 trillion.Of all the ideas to solve this crisis, a game show might not be...
Published: 07/09/18
Three with varied experience vie for Pinellas School Board District 2 seat

Three with varied experience vie for Pinellas School Board District 2 seat

Three candidates hope to land the at-large District 2 seat on the Pinellas County School Board: a parent who works in the performing arts, a middle school reading teacher and a former principal who’s served on the board since 2010.They agree on a few...
Published: 07/05/18
Updated: 07/12/18
Pinellas education news: School Board candidate forums, ancient brew at USFSP, and more

Pinellas education news: School Board candidate forums, ancient brew at USFSP, and more

Meet the candidates for Pinellas School Board The public is invited to three forums showcasing this year’s candidates for the Pinellas County School Board. All three events are sponsored by the Pinellas Education Foundation, St. Petersburg College, P...
Published: 07/05/18
Updated: 07/11/18
Robotics teams pave way for STEM interest

Robotics teams pave way for STEM interest

TAMPA — When the combined robotic teams from Jesuit High School and Academy of the Holy Names met 2-year-old Theo Rimes at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, the students’ eyes lit up.Known as the Stealth Tigers, they surrounded Theo as he sped around...
Published: 07/05/18
Updated: 07/08/18
Bach to Rock music school turns music lessons into a group activity in Lutz

Bach to Rock music school turns music lessons into a group activity in Lutz

LUTZ — When Rick Schmidt opens his new music school, Bach To Rock, platinum awards, autographed items and guitars from musicians with Florida connections to Florida will adorn the walls. With more than 20 years in the radio and music industry, Schmid...
Published: 07/05/18
Epilogue: Ruskin E. Reddoch coached his Tarpon Springs players on and off the field

Epilogue: Ruskin E. Reddoch coached his Tarpon Springs players on and off the field

Rusty, coach, dad, grandpa and great grandpa are just a few of the names Ruskin E. Reddoch went by over his 99 years. He had just celebrated his 73rd wedding anniversary with his wife, Marjorie, days before falling ill. Mr. Reddoch died June 11. He w...
Published: 07/05/18
All (yes, all) students in Hernando schools will get free breakfast and lunch through 2022

All (yes, all) students in Hernando schools will get free breakfast and lunch through 2022

BROOKSVILLE — Every student in Hernando County will have access to free breakfast and lunch at school through 2022, thanks to an unlikely helper: Hurricane Irma.The federal Community Eligibility Provision program, which offers meal assistance for sch...
Published: 07/05/18