As middle and high school students in the area have transitioned to distance learning, one of the difficulties is students completing their school work, as Verndale Area Christian Academy Pastor of Christian Education Kenny Kjeldergaard said. The academy is preparing a distance learning resource program for area students to have in-person teacher supervision throughout the school day while parents and guardians are at work. Students would still be enrolled in their public school and complete their distance learning at the church space.

“The heart of this was elementary students … but our main feedback right now has been high school students that parents are working, their kids can stay home alone but the kids, let’s be honest, they’d rather sit and watch YouTube and play games and TV than do their schoolwork and the parents aren’t home to hold them accountable,” Kjeldergaard said. He is a parent of two middle/high schoolers and one elementary student.

Depending on the number of students interested, the program could open on Nov. 30. The program is also open to students who have been in distance learning since the beginning of the school year.

While many public school districts will be re-evaluating learning model changes, staffing and the number of COVID-19 cases could also mean distance learning for all grade levels. As of Nov. 19, both Wadena-Deer Creek and Bertha-Hewitt Public Schools have plans in place for extended distance learning.

The distance learning space would be open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. with breakfast and lunch provided by Verndale Public Schools. The about 20-30 students would be spaced out in the sanctuary, according to Kjeldergaard. Students would bring their iPads or Chromebooks provided by their public school and be able to use the Internet at VACA. The academy has a small number of available computers.

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VACA also has a child care center and a private school for kindergarten and first graders, and students in the distance learning program would not interact with the other children.

Students do not have to wear a face covering or shield. As a child care center with a range of children, VACA can choose to not require face coverings as long as families are aware of this choice, according to Executive Order 20-81.

“None of the kids are required to wear masks due to that part of the mandate,” Kjeldergaard said. “That has been something that has attracted a lot of parents: the fact that we are able to practice that where the schools cannot.”

The program costs $99 a week per student. The second student in the family would be $74 and additional students $48. There is also income based pricing available, according to Kjeldergaard.

The schedule for the wide age range of students and funding the program are two of the challenges. Students in different grade levels are expected to check in with their teachers maybe once a day or once an hour. At VACA, a Bible story time will also be incorporated in the day.

Kjeldergaard said the goal is to provide a resource for parents and schools.

“We don’t want to steal students from the school. We want to partner and help the school,” Kjeldergaard said.

More information

Verndale Area Christian Academy is located at the Verndale Family Life Church, 402 NE Clark Drive, Verndale.

If your business is interested in helping with funding for the academy, contact Pastor Kenny at 218-445-5568.

To add your student(s) to the waiting list or for more information, call Pastor Kenny, visit www.verndaleareachristianacademy.org/pages/distance-learning-resource-program or the Verndale Area Christian Academy Facebook page.