With most Atascadero schools starting the school year with distance learning, many working parents looked for options.

Atascadero Bible Church is helping free of charge.

ABC provides wifi and a safe, supervised space for parents to bring their children to participate in distance learning. 

“Parents are really, really thankful for us doing it,” said Jeff Urke, ABC Executive Pastor. “Obviously, you wish you could do more. It is a challenge I think for some parents not to have full-time care.”

He said they saw a need and worked out a way to fill that need, all while following current COVID-19 guidelines. Parents do not have to be members of the church to use the program.

“Brand new program, never done it before,” Urke said. “As schools launched distance learning in the fall, we thought we have to help these families somehow.”

ABC began its program in mid-August as schools came back online. As Urke aptly pointed out, ABC, 6225 Atascadero Ave., had the space and a system for getting volunteers. 

“We have a system already in place for our volunteers for background checks and risk training and everything else,” Urke said. “It made good sense. We worked with our team here to go ahead and recruit some volunteers and open up the application process and had 60 applicants.”

Of those 60, roughly 35 signed up for their program that is open to grades K-12. Most of the children are in the elementary grades. 

“The high school kids are more self-sufficient,” Urke said.

ABC’s program windows coincide with AUSD’s morning and afternoon sessions, 7:45 to 10:45 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. to 3:15 p.m., respectively. For some parents, this worked, and for some, it didn’t.

“There were many families that said I need for my kids to be somewhere all day,” Urke said. “We couldn’t do that. We did not want to do child care necessarily, but we can certainly supervise the school hours. We are not serving everybody, but we are serving everybody that we can.”

The ratio of a volunteer to a child is 1-to-5, Urke said, and some of the volunteers are credentialed teachers.

“I was in here yesterday, and this little girl was learning fractions and one of our volunteers brought pie pieces and was helping her learn,” Urke said. “That was exciting.”

Urke said they have room for more students and were going to open it up to drop-ins.

ABC is also partnering with Legacy Church to provide subject-specific tutoring after 3 p.m. 

“We are going to do that in tandem so that if you needed some real specific help with math or science or writing, you could sign up for additional sessions there and the kids could go there after they do some distance learning here,” Urke said. “Just trying to pool together our resources.”

Urke realizes the goal for schools is to return to in-person instruction when allowed.

“As long as there is a need, we will do this,” Urke said. “We can only do what we can do and we are going to do what we can do. We feel really good about it. The program is going very well as far as we are concerned.”

For more information, visit ABC online at https://abcchurch.org/school or call 805-466-2051.

Getting through this together, Atascadero