• 20200909-143033-abe11f82e0
  • 20200909-143036-5361c49121

It has been an unusual start for Jeffco Public Schools and Denver Public Schools students this year.

Rather than starting school in-person in August like in any regular year, Jeffco Public Schools students’ first day of school took place in front of a computer for remote learning from Aug. 24 to Sept. 4. Denver Public Schools students are taking classes remotely through Oct. 16 while the district started bringing preschool students back on Sept. 8, Chalkbeat Colorado reported.

But at Gold Crown Foundation in Lakewood, a nonprofit that offers youth sports and education focused programs, around 30 Jeffco Public Schools and Denver Public Schools students had structure that resembles a normal day of school. Students showed up to the nonprofit’s building during the week and sat at tables spread out six feet apart where learning coaches helped them with remote learning assignments and getting set up for virtual meetings with their teachers every day. Following lunch, Gold Crown’s students got to participate in a sports camp where they got to exercise, similar to a physical education class.

Gold Crown’s efforts to welcome students five times a week from Aug. 24 to Sept. 3 for assistance with remote learning was operated through its Remote Learning and Activities Camp, designed to provide students with academic support, an environment for social interaction and to help parents who may be struggling with childcare.

The nonprofit’s “remote learning pods” through the camp were open to students in grades first through sixth. Learning coaches like Kara Lundin helped students navigate through their remote learning schedules, virtual education programs and made sure students are still receiving the education they need.

“A lot of parents are not able to stay home, and sometimes it’s hard for the parents to get their kids onboard with doing the schoolwork when there might be relationship challenges. Sometimes it’s just good for kids to have structure with other kids and with a different adult, they can look to for support with their school specifically,” said Lundin. “A lot of kids might not have internet, or they might have more than one child in the house that needs different support. This is a good space for them to come, have a safe environment and have all the resources they need.”

The program gave Jeffco Public Schools students like Kodi Patron, a sixth-grade student at Dean Elementary School in Lakewood, a safe, quiet environment to carry out remote lessons until in-person learning resumed. Patron’s parents work, and he said they wanted him to enroll in Gold Crown’s Remote Learning and Activities Camp so that he had a place to learn outside of home.

“It’s fun, calmer and as loud as a normal classroom setting, sometimes. I get to hang out with my friends here,” said Patron.

After lunch at Gold Crown, students got to participate in sports to exercise like basketball, wiffle ball, kickball, track and field, volleyball, frisbee golf, soccer, capture the flag, non-contact football and badminton. Although Gold Crown charged registration fees for the Remote Learning and Activities Camp, around 95% of the students’ fees were paid for through a scholarship offered by the nonprofit, according to Tamera Sakotas, who oversees the program.

“Our (learning coaches) serve in some ways as secretaries (to the students). We’re really helping kids meet the expectations of their schools,” said Sakotas.

Other features of the program included circle time, where students shared triumphs and challenges, played collaborative learning games and participated in activities that are designed to build relationships and solidarity. Sakotas said Gold Crown coordinated with Jeffco Public Schools to pick up lunches for students at the school district’s grab-and-go lunch sites.

Prior to entering Gold Crown, students were required to wear masks, have their temperatures taken and answer wellness questions. Surfaces, supplies and high traffic areas in Gold Crown’s building were cleaned and sanitized frequently along with its bathrooms.

“Gold Crown has been around for 30 years, and the organization started in response to the schools back when they were losing funding for basketball. It’s to enhance what the schools can and can’t provide to offer more and fill the gaps,” said Sakotas. “That is the interest of our organization and this program in pandemic times is no different.”