February 2021

Learning Extension Centers hope to give Columbus students resources for distance learning

Courtesy of ABC 6
By Jesse Pagan
February 25, 2021

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX) — The COVID-19 pandemic has forced parents to take on the mantle of teachers at home, adding to the full plates many Central Ohio parents already face.

As the pandemic is affecting Black and people of color disproportionately, this means Black and minority kids are at a greater chance of falling behind in school.

“They are great kids but they are struggling, really struggling with this distance learning thing,” mom Ebony Spiess said of her own three kids. Her oldest and youngest have special educational needs which she says are opening the door to struggles in schooling from home. That’s why she took them to the Learning Extension Center at Northland High School.

“I’m really hoping it works,” Spiess said. “The biggest complaint from them has been, “Mom I can’t do this. I need a teacher. I need somebody to explain this to me.'”

The Columbus Urban League and Columbus City Schools have partnered to create the centers, also known as LEC’s, throughout the City. While students will still log on to their virtual classes, they’ll also have the support of teachers or education specialists in-person, who can help answer questions or guide through tough lessons. Kids are also given meals and snacks during their day.

“It’s an opportunity to allow students who are maybe disadvantaged and unfortunate to not be able to have WiFi, hot meals, or even supervision at home,” Taja Martin LEC Program Coordinator with the CUL said. “We have families that have been out of jobs. We’ve had families that unfortunately have lost loved ones due to COVID.”

Martin says the idea for the LEC’s came from none other than a Zoom call, between the Urban League and community partners like churches, where some LEC’s are housed. The goal is to help kids, especially those in disenfranchised neighborhoods and groups hardest hit by the pandemic’s effects.

“It definitely helps the Black community to be able to not just say ‘here’s all your assignments and do it,'” Martin said. “We’re able to push, we’re able to motivate, we’re able to encourage and we’re able to just be that holding hand through it all.”

As an example: the Northland High School LEC can house 54 students–18 each from elementary, middle, and high school–from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Friday.

A list of all Learning Extension Centers, as well as instructions on how to register, can be found here.

“For a Learning Extension Center to be here is just like that village because it does take a complete village for just one child,” Martin said. “I believe Learning Extension Centers are these small villages in the Black community, and it’s amazing.”

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