Summit County children’s organizations help parents continue to work despite remote learning |

Summit County children’s organizations help parents continue to work despite remote learning

Frisco Fun Club Recreation Program Coordinator Sara Skinner poses for a portrait while students participate in the after-school Little Vikings Nordic ski program at Frisco Nordic Center on Monday, Jan. 25. The Frisco Fun Club was given a guest service award by One Breckenridge.
Photo by Jason Connolly / Jason Connolly Photography

When schools shut down to in-person learning, local organizations stepped in.

Breckenridge Recreation Center Youth Programs, Frisco Fun Club and Mountain Top Exploratorium (formerly Mountain Top Children’s Museum) provided supervised care for school-age kids so parents could continue to work. The three programs were recognized as part of One Breckenridge’s fall and holiday season Guest Service Champions awards.

The Breckenridge Recreation Center’s Youth Programs Coordinator Terrin Abell said the center typically runs an after-school program, minicamps for days when school isn’t in session and summer camps. When the shutdown hit in March, the center was able to run emergency child care, mainly for essential workers. This school year, when schools closed to in-person learning for several weeks over the holidays, the center hosted about 40 kids per day.

From 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Abell said the center supervised students in kindergarten through middle school, making sure they were on top of their classroom video meetings and staying on task during school hours. Then, the program incorporated exercise-geared activity in the after-school hours, when kids could use the climbing wall, participate in gym games or head to a nearby playground or sledding hill. The students were separated by grade level throughout rooms in the recreation center’s youth wing, conference rooms and multipurpose rooms, and one to two staff members supervised each group.

“We knew this was going to happen, so we were able to staff accordingly pretty quickly, and our staff wanted the hours,” Abell said. “The other employees in our rec center stepped up, as well. We had some people from aquatics, some people from sports and special events and outdoor programs. We all just kind of huddled together and said, ’We need to do this,’ and didn’t really look back.”

Despite a high number of quarantines closing local schools, Abell said the center has never had to shut down its child care program. While there have been “a few hiccups,” she said staying in close communication with the Summit County Public Health Department’s contact-tracing team, the schools and other child care programs has helped the center stay on top of quarantines and symptom tracking as well as educational and technological needs.

Abell joked that all the teachers at Upper Blue Elementary School have her cellphone number. If a child’s computer wasn’t working, for example, the teacher would ask Abell to help the student reboot.

During remote learning, the recreation center did not raise child care prices and was able to offer scholarships to help local working families, Abell wrote in an email.

Terrin Abell poses for a photo Friday, Jan. 22, in the children’s play area at Breckenridge Recreation Center. Abell has been the youth programs director at the center for the past three years.
Photo by Liz Copan / Studio Copan

At Mountain Top Exploratorium, the staff started running programs for school-age kids to coincide with the school district’s hybrid-learning program, giving kids a place to go on remote learning days and after school, Executive Director Tiernan Spencer said. When schools closed to in-person learning, Spencer said Mountain Top’s after-school program quickly transitioned into a distance learning support camp on weekdays to help parents continue to work.

“It was the most peculiar job description I’ve ever given my staff to figure out their (students’) schedules and their Zooms and what classwork they have for that day,” Spencer said. “And … make sure they’re staying on task and still staying safe and having snack and having lunch and finding a little bit of outside time during lunchtime, because that was the only time that all of our schools were not giving a Zoom meeting. It was just the craziest, every-day-was-a-new-journey program.”

In total, Spencer said about 75 kids were served during seven weeks of the program. Spencer said Mountain Top will run the camp again if needed. In the meantime, it will move to a day camp program that operates during school breaks or days when school isn’t in session.

Spencer said the program hasn’t experienced any outbreaks or closures since the summer camp program started in June, and families are asked to help keep that streak alive.

“We’re really asking families to be super cognizant that you and your actions at home … (are) going to keep our program open,” Spencer said. “So we do our best here with two health screens a day, frequent disinfecting, small group sizes, and really just making sure that we’re diligent about masks and social distancing here at camp, but we were really fortunate to have families that were very cognizant and very responsible over the holidays.”

Although Mountain Top didn’t raise prices from summer camp rates, the program hired a tutor to make sure kids didn’t fall behind and is applying for grant funding to cover the costs. The program operated out of the Summit County Library’s south branch in Breckenridge, but Spencer said Mountain Top is looking to set up shop in its own space again after the original museum was closed.

Mountain Top Exploratorium Executive Director Tiernan Spencer, from left, watches as students Alice Graham and Emitt Wagner work on a science experiment at the Summit County Library south branch in Breckenridge on Monday, Jan. 25. Mountain Top was given a guest service award by One Breckenridge.
Photo by Jason Connolly / Jason Connolly Photography

Over at Frisco Fun Club, the staff hosted students from kindergarten to fifth grade four days per week when schools closed to in-person learning this winter. In the fall, Frisco’s Recreation Programs Coordinator Sara Skinner said the program offered a place for parents to bring their elementary-age children on remote-learning Wednesdays before expanding the program when schools went fully remote. The program has since returned to Wednesdays only.

Frisco Fun Club typically operates as a summer camp program, and Skinner said she usually employs a lot of college students for the summer. Because many universities required distance learning for the first semester or had a winter break that began in early December, Skinner was able to hire some of the college students who were in town.

Skinner said the program hosted about 20 kids per day from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The program provided a place for the children to learn remotely throughout the day as well as have a social outlet, Skinner said. Once school was over, program staff took the students to nearby parks to get outside and play games.

“We’ve gotten so much incredible gratitude from Summit County families,” Skinner said. “They needed to be working. Their jobs didn’t stop when their kids were at home.”

Guest Service Champions

Tyler Oeschger, Breckenridge Recreation Center

Michael Sarges, Breckenridge Recreation Center

Randy Gill, Breckenridge Recreation Center

Landon Ochsner, Breckenridge Recreation Center

Tracy Van Anderson, Breckenridge Recreation Center

Ski Country Resorts

Nancy Binsfeld, The Crown

Megan Pierson, Breckenridge Tourism Office

Lindsay Reinwand, Breckenridge Grand Vacations

Charlie Freeman, The Lodge at Breckenridge

Frisco Fun Club

Mountain Top Children’s Museum

Breckenridge Recreation Center Youth Programs

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