By Lee Chottiner
Classes may be virtual in Jefferson County schools to start the year, but that doesn’t mean kids won’t be grabbing their notebooks and devices in the morning and heading somewhere.
And that somewhere could be the Jewish Community Center.
The JCC has announced a camp-style school support program called, Camp J 365, which will facilitate school instruction at its campus while also offering extracurricular activities. Kids from Jefferson County and other area school systems may participate.
The program comes at a difficult time for public and private schools. Gov. Andy Beshear issued a new safety recommendation Monday, saying Kentucky schools should delay their openings until Sept. 28.
But Camp J 365 is not a school, said Camp J Director Mindye Mannel.
“We are simply a support program offering a service,” she said. “We don’t want anyone to be misled; that’s why we elected to maintain the camp name and the camp model.”
What her college-educated staff will be doing, Mannel said, is supporting students with their technology and their assignments. She envisions them helping kids access their home schools’ nontraditional instruction (NTI) programs, helping them connect with their teachers, facilitating a classroom experience, and assisting in completion of schoolwork (focusing, finding online resources, etc.).
They will not be tutoring. “We’re not content-oriented, specifically,” Mannel said.
She also said students will be allowed to study together, much like a study hall.
Camp J 365 will offer an element of “normalcy” to an abnormal school year, Mannel said. The days will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. – similar to normal school hours.
Art, swimming, music, sports, drama, dance, physical education and games will be offered as extracurricular activities, scheduled to complement – not displace – school programs.
To keep the program safe, attendance has been capped 60 kids, who will be divided into “pods” of 9-12. Those pods will stay together throughout each session.
“There is no opportunity for the groups to mix and for there to be cross-contamination, as there could potentially be in a school environment,” Mannel said.
Social distancing mask-wearing will be enforced. Daily health screenings will be done each morning for parents and kids, including temperature readings.
For now, two three-week sessions – Aug 26-Sept. 11 and Sept 14-Oct. 2 – are being offered. More can be added, Mannel said, depending on demand and available staffing, hence the name J 365.
While other Louisville institutions – the YMCA and Frazier History Museum – are offering their own support programs, Mannel said Camp J 365 slots are filling fast. Of the first 33 to be opened Tuesday, 30 are already taken.
“Our camp has brand reputation in the community, and we want to go with that,” Mannel said. “People trust camp; they know our camp has the proven ability to keep children safe.”