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Methodist church creating safe space for students while virtual learning during pandemic

HOUSTON – For 150 years, Houstonians have been walking into Trinity United Methodist Church in Third Ward to worship, but now, a brand new back-to-school program called Sanctuary Of Learning hopes to bring up to 1,000 children into Methodist Churches citywide to virtually connect with their schools and learn at the church.

The ultimate goal is to give hard-working parents who have to work away from home and cannot afford a nanny or a babysitter to watch their children, a safe place to bring their kids every day, absolutely free.

“We’re focusing on parents who can’t afford daycare, who can’t afford to bring someone in their home five days a week and direct their children in their virtual learning”, said Reverend Jill Daniels of The Texas Annual Conference Of The United Methodist Church.

Daniels believes at least 20 Methodist churches in Houston will join this program and they will be able to serve upwards of 800 to 1,000 HISD students whose parents cannot supervise them at home.

“We believe we can handle at least 75 kids at our church alone and we will give them everything they need to make it. We are talking about breakfast and lunch, study time, supervision and a powerful WIFI connection so they can connect digitally with their teachers at their individual schools,” said Pastor Ed Jones, of Trinity United Methodist Church.

Exact hours of the program have yet to be announced, but it’s believed kids will be able to attend from as early as 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Teams of screened, volunteers will supervise the kids and maintain social distancing and proper sanitizing for the children.

The big question is will those kids who can’t afford a laptop computer be provided with one. Without that, virtually connecting with their teachers will be impossible.

“For those children that can’t afford a computer or do not already have one, every kid that comes into our program will be provided with a computer to connect with their teachers, to be fully functioning in their school’s virtual program,” Jones said.

The start date for this ground-breaking program is Sept. 8, the first day of virtual school for all Houston Independent School District schools.

HISD and The United Methodist Church are partnering together on this project and parents can apply to have their children take part in the program by contacting the principal or the school office at the schools where their children attend.

This program is for students of HISD schools only.