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New program in Marion County to help working parents in need of child care as kids return to virtual classes

Eleven sites across Marion County will offer free e-learning supervision for up to 500 students.

INDIANAPOLIS — It's back to class, but not the classroom for thousands of Indianapolis Public School students and others who must learn remotely because of COVID-19. And e-learning can be especially hard for working parents who can't afford child care and can't afford to quit their jobs.

"Once schools decided to go virtual, the Mind Trust realized we had to fill a void, meet a need," said Shannon Williams. She heads the Mind Trust, an Indianapolis nonprofit working to address that need through free supervised e-learning for parents with few options.

"We understand the challenges people are facing," she said. "It's tough times, and we wanted to provide alternatives for parents that wouldn't (involve having) to choose between work and providing assistance for children."

The Hawthorne Community Center is one of 11 sites across Indianapolis providing space to a total of 500 students. Caleb Sutton, executive director of the Hawthorne center, calls the program critical for the kids and their parents.

"A lot of parents are working in industries where working from home is just not an option, missing a paycheck is not an option," Sutton said.

So his center and 10 others have become temporary schools of sorts with multi-purpose rooms turned into classrooms, students wearing masks, and desks at least six feet apart. The Mind Trust is putting $200,000 toward the program with that money meant to help cover staffing, meals, transportation, masks and cleaning supplies.

Myracle Hatchett, who just started sixth grade, said she was glad to be back in the classroom learning again, even if it's alongside students from other schools with different teachers and lessons. Myracle said being in structured environment, "gets me in the mindset to think I'm in the classroom... and it helps me focus better."

Sophia Martinez, starting fifth grade, agrees.

"Instead of staying home all day, we get to experience new things," she said.

The program is set to run until mid-October when IPS returns to in-person learning, but it can go longer if needed.

Williams said demand is currently greater than capacity, but the Mind Trust is working to raise the money needed to provide more sites.