ConnCAT Launches 'Safe Space' Education Hub to Support Distance Learning under COVID-19
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September 1, 2020 Ashlee Niedospial
New Haven, CT – The Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology (ConnCAT), today announced the launch of Safe Space, a no-cost education hub which will provide academic support, social engagement, and a safe educational space to selected New Haven students during distance learning for the 2020-2021 school year. This education hub is the next step in ConnCAT’s continued response to combat the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on New Haven’s Black and low-income communities. Prior to the launch of Safe Space, ConnCAT hosted two focus groups with students and parents, to gain greater clarity on what was needed to best support families. Guided by those conversations, Safe Space will operate Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and will provide students with “hands-on” educational and technical support, reliable wifi, breakfast and lunch, and an 8-1 ratio of students to teachers. Meals will be provided through ConnCAT’s Orchid Cafe, which is run by students and graduates of ConnCAT’s adult Culinary Arts Academy. “Safe Space is fundamentally and primarily about keeping kids safe, and giving them the tools they need to learn and grow,” said Erik Clemons, ConnCAT President & CEO. “Families in our community are facing a lot of uncertainty right now, and for many, distance-only learning presents a whole new host of difficult decisions to make. We wanted to do our part to solve for some of those uncertainties by providing a setting where students' needs can be met physically, socially, and academically.” The decision to launch the education hub was made in response to a vote by the New Haven Board of Education to start the 2020-2021 school year with 10 weeks of remote-only learning. Made possible through the support of Dalio Philanthropies, Safe Space is currently slated to run from September to January, but may be available for the entirety of the school year, pending the reassessment of remote-only, hybrid, or in-person learning by the Board of Education at the end of the 10 weeks. “Education has always been at the core of everything we do. With the pandemic threatening to impact the educational opportunities of so many, we knew we needed to step up,” said Genevive Walker, ConnCAT’s Chief Operating Officer. “Safety is our top priority, but we also want to ensure that as the school year progresses students are able to progress academically. We will be physically distant, but socially engaged.” In order to maintain social distancing standards, Safe Space is set to serve 32 students, from grades 6th through 9th. Students will be accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis, with 33% of the spots reserved for students in Newhallville. "ConnCAT's Safe Space is God sent. When I received the invitation from ConnCAT to attend a meeting about the youth program, I was unsure what it would be about," said Rosealee Reid, ConnCAT Parent. "As I sat there and listened, I felt a sense of calmness come over me. The weeks leading up to the ConnCAT meeting, I had many concerns. How were the children going to maintain social distance in school? How will they be able to keep up with their assignments if they are fully remote? How will I be able to help them? I am grateful for ConnCAT stepping up again and finding a way to help." "When I was in school it was a better experience being in the classroom where I was able to interact with my classmates and get help from my teachers. Then Covid happened all that abruptly stopped, I was not able to work at my best ability," said Sayvion Sealy, 9th grade. "I like the program that ConnCAT told me about because it will make it so that I can get help with my school work and interact safely with my friends. I miss my friends at school and I miss my friends and the staff at ConnCAT. I hope that me and my brother get into the Safe Space school program." "The new program that ConnCAT is doing is very convenient and helpful, especially the tools that they offer, such as the teachers who will be able to help us with our studies and homework," said Tajay Henlin, 9th grade. "I think that this program will help my school life easier. Overall I think the idea/plan is very good and useful to the community. I can't wait to start the program and see my friends." ConnCAT is currently accepting applications for Safe Space a conncat.org/programs/youth-programs
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About ConnCAT ConnCAT provides job-training programs intended to give unemployed and under-employed adults the skills needed to secure meaningful, well-paying jobs in the health sciences and culinary professions. ConnCAT provides adults with the academic support needed to succeed in the programs. Career preparation is linked with the hospitality industry and corporate partners who assist in the design of the training. Our mission is to inspire, motivate, and prepare youth and adults for educational and career advancement, through after-school arts, and job training programming. Our vision is to create a learning environment that inspires hope, innovation, creativity, and excellence while providing a path for individuals to revitalize the landscape of the urban community.