Wichita’s Carousel Skate Center is now hosting elementary students for online learning in a socially distanced work space.
The Wichita School Board voted last week to transition roughly 13,000 elementary students to online learning as coronavirus infections surged, leaving many families scrambling to figure out childcare.
Carousel joins a handful of local businesses and organizations taking on students for virtual learning, including the Sedgwick County Zoo, Strategic Workspace and the Plug to Christ, a nonprofit youth organization.
Seven students ranging from kindergarten to fifth grade showed up at the westside roller rink Monday for the first day of supervised learning. Students sat at tables spaced six feet apart and were served lunch and given school help as needed.
"We have three full-time adult management staff here during the day, and then we also have a couple different college students that are either studying or have studied education that are working with kids," Communications Manager Journey Ottaway said.
Carousel is charging $115 a student per week, including lunch, but parents who sign up midweek can pay a prorated cost.
"Being a family-owned business, our goal is to work with families and our communities at all times," Ottaway said. "We have been able to see first-hand in some of our own families how hard this has been. We have the space and the facility for it, so we just kind of thought we could do our part in helping."
Having table space, internet access and staff on duty during the day helped make it possible.
With parental permission, students can play in Carousel’s indoor playground during recess breaks.
"Every kid’s on a different schedule, so most of them are not breaking at the same time, which has really been helpful," Ottaway said Monday afternoon. "We’ve had maybe three kids today that have had breaks at the same time. Then, we’ve had them wear their face masks within the space throughout the playground."
It’s easy to spread out in the playground, which was designed to fit 100 children, and Ottoway said the space is sanitized between uses.
Parents must sign an agreement outlining expectations for their children when they register.
"They are agreeing to wear a face mask. They’re agreeing to the setup that we have," Ottaway said. "They can decide if they want their kid to be able to play in the playground during recess or if they’d rather have them do a different activity."
Students are asked to bring a computer and charger, headphones, a face mask, pencils, a water bottle and books or other materials in case they finish early.
Temperature checks will be administered at the door when students are dropped off.
For more information, or to sign up, visit carouselsk8ks.com/online-learning/.
This story was produced as part of the Wichita Journalism Collaborative, a partnership of seven media companies, including KMUW, working together to bring timely and accurate news and information to Kansans.