By M.T. Eley
With local schools resuming on an alternating schedule that has all students work from home on Wednesdays, it is evident that in 2020 the Internet is as essential to education as pen and paper. And although local schools provide daytime Internet access to students via parking lots, the set-up is ideal for quick downloads of study packets and upload of finished homework, not a sustained study. With a dearth of quiet, safe, socially-distanced and monitored locations to send work to students, the Botetourt County Public Schools joined forces with the Botetourt County Prevention Coalition to find spaces in the community that could meet the demand. Fincastle Baptist Church was among the first to sign up.
“We recognized every parent in the community had a problem called ‘Wednesday,’” said Senior Pastor Kevin Cummings in an interview with The Fincastle Herald last week. That led to Wednesday Camps, the second of which occurred last week.
The camps are offered at the church’s Fincastle campus at 7330 Roanoke Road in Fincastle from 7 a.m.-4 p.m. and Highlands campus at 230 E. Oak Street in Covington from 7 a.m.-3:45 p.m. The Fincastle campus can accommodate up to 75 children grades K-5, while the Highlands campus can accommodate up to 35.
While the church requests parents pack children a lunch and snacks, masks and sanitary supplies are provided to ensure that the set-up is within the same guidelines governing the children’s experiences within schools. This includes temperature checks at the front door and enforced, demarcated six-foot distance when the students are indoors. Additionally, the church offers homework help in the way of former elementary school teachers. Finally, the sheriff’s department has provided a school resource officer to be present at the church when the camp is in session. Children enjoy outdoor activities, story time and finally a quiet setting in the sanctuary to do homework with their friends — six feet apart, of course.
In the first two weeks, roughly 90 children have attended camp at the Fincastle campus, said Pastor Cummings in an email. “We have them from multiple Botetourt County schools, but mainly they are the schools closest to Fincastle Baptist Church — Breckinridge, Troutville, Greenfield, Buchanan.” The Highlands campus, opening today, is expected to cater to families too distant from Fincastle to take advantage of the church’s primary location.
Residents looking to sign up for Fincastle Baptist’s Wednesday Camps program at either location can visit the website at www.fincastlebaptist.org/camp by calling 540-473-2861.
The need continues to exist for more spaces where students can work, play and socialize during Wednesdays — as well as other days — during the school year. In especial need are students in the Buchanan and Eagle Rock areas. Most important is a reliable Internet connection and an indoor space with tables at which students can safely study, but adult supervision is also required to ensure social distancing protocols are met alongside basic sanitation. Organizations with eligible facilities can email their information and available hours to Dr. Janet Womack at firstname.lastname@example.org.