By Crystal Burns
Children sat quietly, masks on, writing in their journals Wednesday morning at the Robert Sidney Phelan Education Center in Trenton.
But when two of their teachers led them outside for a game of kickball, the sounds of summer returned to the Lexington Street neighborhood as boys and girls giggled and yelled while playing.
“We’re just trying to have fun with them,” said Charlotte Doaks, longtime director of the LEMAC program, which is under the umbrella of the Trenton Housing Authority.
When schools closed in March to help slow the spread of COVID-19, the LEMAC afterschool program also shut its doors. Teachers, however, kept working, reaching out to children and their families with phone calls, emails, and home visits.
Doaks was thrilled when the state department of education approved the housing authority’s 21st CCLC grant application to fund the summer program, which began June 1 and ends June 30. The children were equally as excited.
“They always want to hug somebody,” Doaks said. “We have to tell them we can’t hug right now. Let’s be safe.”
The program is open to children in grades K-8. They begin their day at 9 a.m. and end at 3 p.m. The Trenton Special School District is providing breakfast and lunch to the students through its seamless summer program.
“They’re getting really good breakfasts and lunches,” Doaks, who said her biggest concern in summer is children getting enough to eat, said.
There are seven total employees working in the LEMAC program this summer. Two prepare lessons from home, and five are on site. Students focus on reading, math, social studies, and science. Doaks said teachers are doing their best to help students close any gaps caused by the unexpected and lengthy school closure.
“We know they’re lacking a lot right now,” Doaks said. “We’re trying to catch them up.”
They’re also helping the children understand the novel coronavirus, providing masks for each student, doing temperature checks every morning at sign-in, and talking about the importance of washing hands often.
“We try to keep them as safe as possible,” Doaks said.
There were 28 children enrolled in the program Wednesday. If you would like your child to attend, call the Trenton Housing Authority at 855-1231.