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The Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center is offering free childcare for community students.

The program, in partnership with Spring Forward, will provide remote learning and socially distanced fun on a first-come-first-serve basis.

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — The Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in Rock Island is partnering with Spring Forward to offer area students a safe, holistic and free remote learning opportunity. 

Beginning on Sept. 14, the service will run Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. It's open to students ages kindergarten through sixth grade, but the center is only allowing 48 kids to be registered. A significant decrease from their normal 150-180 program capacity.

Students will be split into pods of about five kids. Each pod will meet daily and have its own caregiver. Groups will be kept separate from each other in hopes that any health issues that may arise in one will not impact the others. 

Organizers say they have come up with safe and aggressive health precautions. Masks will be required and students will be socially distanced while working on remote learning each day. The center will be checking temperatures each morning before the parents leave. Rooms are well ventilated and outdoor spaces will be utilized whenever possible. And there are special quarantine rooms, in the case that a child does start to develop symptoms. 

Remote learning will be the focus each morning, from 8:30 a.m. until about 2 p.m. Then until 5 p.m., students will participate in a variety of activities - from gardening to robotics to film-making. 

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Ivoryonna Clark is the Youth Service Specialist at the center, and she says that while education is their number one priority, the children's mindfulness is also important. 

"We're realizing that a lot of the kids are very stressed right now. Sometimes we focus on that parent stress and not that kid stress," she said. 

That's why after-class activities - especially those that involve getting the students up and active - are so necessary right now. 

And as for the parents, community center Executive Director Jerry Jones says this is a huge benefit for them as well. 

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"We are hearing that families want to be in-person learning, because they need to go back to work to support their families. We recognize the importance of that and want to be a resource for those working families. Especially for families in this area, who need to be at work the most." 

The center is working closely with school districts to ensure that each child will have access to a computer during the program. Breakfast and lunch will also be provided every day.

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Registration is open now and students are being accepted on a first-come-first-serve basis. The service is available both for children who are learning fully online and those who are in hybrid learning systems. To sign up or ask for more questions, parents should call the community center itself (309-732-2987). 

Jones also said they are currently in the process of hiring several caregivers to watch over individual pods.

And if you would like to get involved and help out the center, Jones says that while they would normally love volunteers, safety measures and urgent needs mean that donating supplies is one of the most effective ways.