Community theater offers place for kids to attend virtual school with safe instruction and interaction

As kids prepare to start the new school year, some parents are struggling to figure out how to keep their kids learning at home. A community theater group is offering parents a unique solution.

“I have to go to work. I have no choice,” said mom Keiana McCluster, adding that the last few months have been stressful.

McCluster wants to keep her son, Elijah, learning at home but does not want to leave her sixth-grader home alone.

“My husband and I work long hours. There are some days we’re out of the house at 6:30 a.m. and not coming back until 6:30 p.m. or seven o’clock and that’s a long time to make sure that he’s eating, make sure that he’s being productive at school, as well."

Rhonda Kato, the founder of Magic Curtain Productions, which is an Orange County community theater, is coming to the rescue. She is offering her facility to families looking for a safe place for their kids to distance-learn. Think of it as a daycare for students learning via the “Launch-ED” program, through the Orange County Public Schools (OCPS).

“I hope that we can provide a place and feel confident their kids are safe, that the OCPS teachers are teaching them everything they need to know and they don’t have to worry about them while they are at work. There’s so many things to stress parents out these days,” Kato said.

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The five-building campus will separate students by age group. There will only be six students to a room and the groups will be monitored by an adult and contained to their space. In the so-called “classrooms,” desks are set apart to maintain safe social distance. Each student will do their individual lessons but with a sense of classroom.

Kato said that they will "wake up at a certain time, they get their things together, which teaches them responsibility and they come and learn in an environment that requires them to sit and listen and learn."

The goal is to improve productivity but also give the kids a sense of normalcy.

Elijah McCluster, a sixth-grade student, told FOX 35 News that “there is special interaction that you need, with your peers. At home, you don’t really have that interaction unless you’re on facetime."

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Kato added that their campus has "a dance instructor, in their spacing and with their masks, they’ll be able to do some light dancing and exercise and we’re also going to have organized games."

The facility will offer supervision Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. with afterschool care available.

Elijah said that he has never been more excited to get back around kids his age, stating that "I love talking to my friends, I love playing at recess, I miss P.E., I miss music, I miss art, I miss everyone."

“It’s just a weight off our shoulders once we found out this would be an option for our rising sixth-grader,” McCluster added.

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The cost is $100 per week, per child. Students must bring their own lunch and snack. More information can be found on the Magic Curtain website.

Tune in to FOX 35 Orlando for the rest of the FOX 35 Classroom Survival Guide as schools prepare to reopen.