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Tulsa non-profit creates free program to help working parents during distance learning

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Posted at 3:10 PM, Sep 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-08 23:29:05-04

TULSA, Okla. — As many working parents figure out how to juggle distance-learning and providing for their families, another organization is stepping in to help.

The Zone is a 21st-century community center learning program, sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Education, that offers numerous extracurricular engagement opportunities for students in the Tulsa Metro area.

The Zone Academy, operated by T.O.U.C.H. Tulsa, provides everything from computer program design and development, to music, to reading and comprehension, The Zone strives to bridge the gap between opportunity and access that inevitably happens within a large education system that serves thousands of kids on a daily basis.

Normally The Zone offers its enhanced learning opportunities before and after the regular school day, but this year the staff are changing gears.

Kujanga and Kimberly Jackson are the Executive Directors of The Zone, and noticed early on that their help may be needed come the Fall 2020-21 school year.

“When the changes with COVID-19 started back in March, we noticed as educators how much of a struggle it was to keep our kids focused and learning,” Jackson said. “We understood that if children are going to be at home distance learning and parents have to go to work, who’s going to be there to monitor that child to make sure that they stay focused.”

With that in mind, the Jacksons are working to offer new learning center hours for The Zone to support students while their parents were at work while many schools continue the start the school year through distance learning.

“We knew we wanted to help give parents a peace of mind while they did what they have to do but know that their child would still be safely academically taken care of,” Jackson said. “So we decided that we had to open up a space where we could help facilitate and be able to provide a safe opportunity for the kids to be able to learn and stay engaged.”

To help the Jacksons launch their program this Wednesday, the Jacksons were told they could use their funds from the Community Development Block Grant awarded through The City of Tulsa.

“This will help us pay our educators as they help facilitate students with distance learning,” Kimberly Jackson said.

Now for the next eight weeks, The Zone Learning Center will be open all day.

“This helps us open at 8 and stay open until 5,” Jackson said. “We will also be able to work with working parents who have special schedule needs as well.”

For the learning center to be safely open, a lot of changes were made to The Zone Learning Center. To facilitate those changes, The Zone Learning Center was awarded a Tulsa Reset Grant.

“We’ve had to renovate this entire place,” Jackson said. “Putting in new emergency exit doors, putting in pull stations, switching everything from ‘touch’ to ‘touch-less,’ a lot of preparation has been done.”

With the space almost ready and sanitizing wipes, sprays, and jells scattered across the building, the only additional aspect the Jacksons need are people.

“We have to keep the student to teacher ratio down pretty low, so students and instructors can learn in a safe environment,” Jackson said. “We have education specialists on our staff and we have academic enrichment specialists on our stats so we are still looking for volunteers to come and just keep an eye on students while they are learning.”

The Zone Learning Center usually houses 200 students, but due to COVID-19 safety precautions, they will open up the building for free to 100 students.

“With these adjustments, we are looking for about eight to ten volunteers to come in for a few hours throughout the day to help out,” Jackson said. “Mainly to make sure students are staying focused and continuing to practice health and safety guidelines.”

The day program is free and open to students in grades kindergarten through fifth grade. The program is funded for the next eight weeks.

To sign up your child, volunteer your time, or donate from a personal or business account call 1-888-370-5444 and select option 1.

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