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Boys and Girls Clubs of Southwest Virginia implementing masks in all after-school programs across the region

Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 5:28 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - With almost all school districts returning to school over the next two weeks, there’s been a scramble to figure out exactly what rules and regulations will be implemented as COVID-19 cases tick upwards.

“We have to make sure that we keep all of our staff healthy, because if our staff aren’t able to be in the building and working with our kids then we could have to shut down because of lack of staffing,” Michelle Davis, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Southwest Virginia, said.

They too have had lots of discussion over what to do for their after school programs.

“We work in multiple school divisions,” Davis said. “And so trying to understand and get a handle on what each division is requiring and then understanding how that’s going to impact our ability to perform after-school services, it’s been a lot.”

That’s why they’ve decided to go with universal masking in all their clubs for students and staff throughout the region, regardless of school district rules.

“We are working a highly unvaccinated population,” Davis said. “A lot of our kids are under the age of 12 and cannot get vaccinated. And we know that we have to do everything we can to protect not only our kids but also our staff.”

With most students returning to school five days a week, the Boys and Girls Clubs will also be returning to just an after-school program instead of offering full-day virtual academies to help students with online classes.

“So our goal is really to provide continuity and support and supplement the learning their teachers are working so hard on during the school day, by providing additional staff, additional support and resources in the afternoon,” Rebekah Meadows, director of programming, said.

And the mentorship that happens at the clubs is more important than ever as kids have had a lot to deal with over the last year-and-a-half.

“One of the biggest things that I think we provide for kids and it’s so important to them, is the relationship with the staff,” Meadows said. “I think that’s really the foundation of creating that happy, safe environment is that they know they have these safe adult relationships.”

As we enter a second school year within the pandemic, the 79 staff members across seven districts working with hundreds of kids have their work cut out for them.

“We’re not just talking about physical safety, we’re talking about the mental health of our kids,” Davis said. “We’re talking about emotional health. We’re talking about the academic health of our kids too and making sure we are there to provide the resources, the connectivity, the opportunities for all of our students to really prosper despite the odds that are really stacked against them right now.”

Davis added that The Boys and Girls Clubs in our hometowns are hurting staff-wise. They’re looking to hire about 13 more staff members across Roanoke, Franklin County and Montgomery County.

If you’d like to learn more about a job and the application process, click here.

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