Some of the youngest Olean students

Staff at the Olean YMCA worked this weekend to create a safe, socially-distance atmosphere for students who will stay at the facility during their off-days from schools in the community.

OLEAN — When students in the Olean City School District return to classes today during a one-day remote session, a number of younger children will receive care and instruction at the Olean YMCA Learning Lab and Child Care Program.

Although many district students will return to classes during a hybrid schedule beginning Thursday to ensure safety measures during the pandemic, younger children will have the opportunity to attend the Olean Y program during their off-days from classes.

Barb Sweitzer, CEO of the YMCA of the Twin Tiers, said the planning and preparation for the collaborative program with the school district has been ongoing the past four to six weeks.

“The Y is stepping up to the plate to support families during the extended out-of-school time caused by the various hybrid learning models that schools have adopted in their reopening plans,” Sweitzer said. “Over the past month, we have worked with school districts to understand their models and fill in the gaps for working families. Our goal is to provide the necessary child care to allow parents to work, assist children with their learning agendas on remote learning days, and give kids a fighting chance with a safe environment.”

She noted the Learning Lab and Child Care Program is held in 13 sites across the three counties of the YMCA of the Tier Tiers’ service area and plans to serve over 650 students per day. Sweitzer said the Olean school district, which will be hosted at the two elementary schools and the Y, is by far the largest and most complicated.

“Enrollment is over 150 and continues to grow as more and more families grapple with how they will go to work and help their children keep up with their school work,” Sweitzer added.

“In my 42 years working for the YMCA, I have never felt more compelled to meet a community need than this. The Y is the largest provider of child care across the nation, and we have the infrastructure to take on this massive undertaking. I couldn’t be more proud of how our staff have responded and have prepared to care for our kids.”

She added that this is especially important given the fact that parents were left with trying to figure out how they would fill the gap of their child being out of school three days a week and responsible for learning virtually during that out-of-school time.

“I have talked to parents who are so thankful and appreciate what the Y is doing,” Sweitzer continued. “It is the right thing for the Y to do and we are committed to support our youth until all children can safely return to school (all) at the same time.”

Sweitzer explained that the typical day will consist of structured learning time, enrichment activities, physical activity including swimming, quiet reading time, and two meals and snacks. “We are fortunate that our Y facilities have the ideal space to host the program,” she remarked.

Olean Superintendent Rick Moore has stated the Y has done a “fabulous job” with structuring and setting up the program.

“They’re basically going to mirror our day” by helping children with remote learning, Moore had said of Y staff who are expected to consist of student teachers and education students from area colleges. Moore also has encouraged the community to donate to the Y’s current capital drive that would help with the child care program.

Brent Raabe, director of association advancement for the YMCA of the Twin Tiers, also has stated the program will provide tutoring, homework support, structural enrichment and character building activities. In addition, financial support is available through sliding scale fees that will be available in accordance with household income.

Registration is limited for the program, but there are still spaces available. Call the Y at 373-2400 for more information.

(Contact reporter Kate Day Sager at Follow her on Twitter, @OTHKate)

(Contact reporter Kate Day Sager at Follow her on Twitter, @OTHKate)