As the 2020-21 school year kicks off with students in and outside of the classroom, North Carolina Baptist churches are opening their spaces to aid with remote learning.
First Baptist Church of Cornelius, in partnership with the Make an Impact Foundation in Davidson, N.C., turned its fellowship hall and educational building into one of several sites for Make an Impact’s Camp EDvantage, which provides free and safe access to remote learning.
“Our primary resource is our location – we’re right in the heart of old town Cornelius – and our buildings,” said David Judge, pastor of FBC Cornelius. “We partner with other ministries in order to leverage what we have with what they have to support folks.”
Judge said he was contacted by someone from the community who wanted to help students without adequate internet access or a safe environment to learn. Last week the church was able to get internet installed throughout the buildings just in time for classes to start Aug. 17.
Seventeen students registered and came to the church when Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools started Monday, and Judge said they expect the group to grow. Camp EDvantage volunteers oversee registration and provide support for students, though they do not teach or tutor. They follow all recommended guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to reduce the risk and spread of COVID-19, including providing hand sanitizer, requiring masks and seating children or families at tables at least six feet apart.
FBC Cornelius is also partnering with Angels and Sparrows Soup Kitchen to provide free lunch for the students every day. In March, the church worked with the Neighborhood CARE Center in Cornelius, which distributed free lunches for as long as schools were closed. Church members prepared sandwiches, which the care center then delivered to students. Angels and Sparrows then continued providing meals throughout the summer and now, through the school year.
Judge, whose children attend Cornelius Elementary School just blocks away from the church, said his family was quickly able to transition to online learning when schools first closed in the spring.
“We know there’s a great number of kids out there, somewhere around 10% of the school population, who fell off the grid when the schools closed in March,” he said. “Those are the kids we’re hoping to reach.”
In nearby Matthews, Team Church announced on its website that it will open its auditorium to offer WiFi and a chance for some socialization for middle and high school students beginning Aug. 31. Church volunteers will serve as room monitors. Cost is $20 per student for the semester.
First Baptist Church of Hendersonville will launch Remote Learning Camp Aug. 24. The church will open one week after classes start to give students and parents time at home to get set up online and understand expectations from teachers, according to a Facebook post. Cost is $10 per student per day.
Pilot Mountain Baptist Association recently received information from Forsyth County schools about the need for volunteers and host facilities for remote learning. A staff member wrote in an email to the Biblical Recorder that the association is reaching out to local churches about the opportunity.