Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Education

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

RECOMMENDED READING


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 cwright@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8643. Follow @Colleen_Wright.

Comments
Pasco students score big at Junior Thespian Festival

Pasco students score big at Junior Thespian Festival

NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco schools brought home 20 top honors from the District 11 Junior Thespian Festival, which included 22 schools from Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando and Manatee counties and took place at the new River Ridge FAME Academy on Nov. 17 and ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
A year after impasse, Pasco school contract talks run more smoothly

A year after impasse, Pasco school contract talks run more smoothly

LAND O’LAKES — Representatives from the Pasco County school district and the United School Employees of Pasco sat together several times in the weeks leading to Thanksgiving break, trading contract proposals amid (mostly) amicable conversation.They c...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Epilogue: Music professor Rita Osborn insisted that her students experience the arts live

Epilogue: Music professor Rita Osborn insisted that her students experience the arts live

The thousands of students who signed up for Rita Osborn’s music and humanities classes at St. Petersburg Junior College knew what they had to do to pass.They could study and memorize material for tests, but they wouldn’t earn more than a C if they di...
Updated: 9 hours ago
USF professors honored as AAAS Fellows

USF professors honored as AAAS Fellows

Six University of South Florida professors whose research efforts span biology, engineering, chemistry and business have been selected as Fellows to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the organization announced Nov. 20.Election ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
When school is out, a Pinellas camp for autistic kids offers a much-needed service

When school is out, a Pinellas camp for autistic kids offers a much-needed service

ST. PETERSBURG — Matt Wiseman’s cell phone rings at least once a week, usually after 9 p.m., with a call from a desperate parent. The voice on the line is tired, defeated. Once again, their child was excluded from an after-school program or summer ca...
Updated: 10 hours ago

University of Central Florida suspends sorority for hazing

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A University of Central Florida sorority has been suspended after its members were accused of hazing, underage drinking and providing false information to law enforcement.The university placed Alpha Xi Delta on an interim suspens...
Published: 11/21/17
10 African-Americans named Rhodes scholars, most ever

10 African-Americans named Rhodes scholars, most ever

Associated PressThe latest group of U.S. Rhodes scholars includes 10 African-Americans — the most ever in a single Rhodes class — as well as a transgender man and four students from colleges that had never had received the honor before. The Rhodes Tr...
Published: 11/19/17

Class notes

School Calendar• Nov. 27: School resumes after Thanksgiving break• Dec. 22: End of second grading quarter.• Dec. 23-Jan. 7: Winter Break.• Jan. 8: Teacher planning day. No school for students.Arts/Music/TheaterCenter for the Arts at River Ridge Middl...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Pasco’s 2018 Outstanding Senior hails from River Ridge High

Pasco’s 2018 Outstanding Senior hails from River Ridge High

River Ridge High School senior Connor Beckman has been named Pasco County’s 2018 Outstanding Senior.Commander of the school’s Air Force JROTC program, Beckman is also an Eagle Scout mentor, National Honor Society president and swim team captain.Beckm...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Pinellas education news: District honors support employees, Discovery Nights resume, and more

Pinellas education news: District honors support employees, Discovery Nights resume, and more

Pinellas names top support employeesFive finalists have emerged from 120 nominees to be the 2017-18 Support Employee of the Year in the Pinellas County school system. The finalists were chosen in five categories. Debra Canning, 21st Century iClass Li...
Updated: 11 hours ago