Feb. 23—MOUNT VERNON — With some pops of color, creative spacing, and high-quality cameras and microphones, a once-drab meeting room in a Mount Vernon office space has been turned into an online preschool.
"We tried to pretty it up," said Amanda Sloan, executive director of Skagit Preschool and Resource Center (SPARC).
As with all schools, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced SPARC staff to get creative in how they reach their students and families. But with a focus on early learning, especially for some at-risk students, the staff at SPARC knew they needed to act quickly to continue to serve its youngest learners.
"This is just something we had to do," Sloan said. "Having any downtime is detrimental. So, even though this isn't the same, it's something."
Thanks to donations from its supporters, SPARC was able to purchase the cameras and microphones — and get the training — to make an online preschool efficient and impactful.
Three days a week for 30 to 40 minutes a day, children get to participate online with their teachers in activities such as dancing, counting, and arts and crafts.
Other SPARC staff, such as occupational therapists, also join in so they can watch students' growth as well.
Every two weeks, SPARC staff deliver the next two weeks' worth of activities, including letting families know of any arts and crafts supplies needed, Sloan said.
Like many educators during the COVID-19 pandemic, SPARC staff are finding some silver linings, including the fact that because the children are so young parents and guardians have to help them access the classes on the computer.
"The plus side is, families have to be involved," Sloan said. "Being able to see and watch and learn with your child is pretty powerful."
At the height of the pandemic, the online preschool was serving about 105 kids, Sloan said.
With COVID-19 safety restrictions easing up, the school is offering some in-person classes for some of its students, Sloan said.
Still, the online preschool, where sessions can be recorded to allow parents and guardians to replay the videos to better help their children, is a tool Sloan hopes to keep in the school's tool belt.
"I would like to keep this as an option," she said.