RED BANK, NJ (Oct. 19, 2020) – When local districts announced they would start the 2020-2021 school year with a blend of in-person and remote learning for students, working parents like Dr. John Vaclavik and his wife Barbara of Fair Haven were worried. They were trying to figure out how they could balance the new hybrid learning model for their four children in grade school and continue with their professional careers.

As the COVID-19 pandemic struck last spring, they juggled their schedules to help their children navigate the new normal of Zoom classes and online learning.

“I would sit in my car and take calls while the kids played in the front yard,” said Barbara, a licensed clinical social worker for the Visiting Nurse Association. “I did my best to help them with their online schoolwork, which was new to them and me, and I worked long hours to stay connected with my clients.”

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Dr. Vaclavik, an OB-GYN, shifted his office hours to help with the children’s virtual learning and to make it all work for the family.

The Vaclaviks were relieved when they heard the Red Bank Family YMCA was offering a new program this fall where their children could spend time on the days when they weren’t physically in school.

“There were so many times when they Y has been there for me and my family,” Barbara Vaclavik, a longtime Y member said. “This was a lifesaver for us because we needed help for the children with remote learning and a safe place for them to go.” 

The three younger Vaclavik children attend the Y Academy in Red Bank three days a week from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The oldest, a sixth grader, stays at home with supervision from a babysitter, who also helps all the children when the school day ends. Coincidentally, the Vaclaviks originally met their sitter at the YMCA Child Watch room.

“Our kids are happy going to the Y, and after they finish their remote schoolwork with the help of YMCA staff, they can enjoy lots of supervised activities,” Mrs. Vaclavik said.

The YMCA of Greater Monmouth County created its new Y Academy program this year to help support local families and schools with evolving needs in response to the pandemic.

“One of our main goals was to provide convenient, flexible and safe child care options and academic support for working parents in our community,” said the Y’s President and CEO Laurie Goganzer.

The Y Academy is now available at five YMCA facilities in the region: Freehold Family YMCA, Freehold Borough YMCA Community Center, Old Bridge Family YMCA, YMCA Children’s Achievement Center in Matawan, and the Red Bank Family YMCA.

In Red Bank, there are more than 63 children enrolled in the Y Academy. Children attend two or three days a week for a full or half day. The children log in to their virtual classes from a personal device and receive help with schoolwork from YMCA staff and volunteers. The Y offers non-contact activities, like yoga and STEAM challenges (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math), and the kids get to spend time outdoors. They also take part in mindfulness activities.

As one the nation’s largest and most trusted child care providers, the Y is following CDC and local health department guidelines during the pandemic, said Stacey Lastella, vice president of Child Achievement. Children and staff wear masks, health screenings take place at drop off, and both children and parents are temperature checked, she noted.

In addition to the Y Academy, the Y provides before and after school care in 15 Monmouth County school districts, and full-day kindergarten and full-time child care in Freehold and Matawan to support local families. Sliding-scale financial assistance is available for all programs based on need.  

The YMCA has responded to the changing needs of its member communities throughout the health emergency. While the Y was temporarily closed for recreation and physical fitness activities as part of the statewide shutdown, the organization shifted to provide essential services, such as food and blood drives and emergency child care. The Y continues to offer COVID testing and mental health counseling services in person and via telehealth.

“The Y Academy is another commitment to supporting families and children in the greater Monmouth County community,” Goganzer said.

Goganzer added that community volunteers are welcome to lend a hand at the Y Academy as part of the nonprofit’s Togetherhood volunteer initiative. “It’s a great way to come together as a community to support families and children though this new norm,” she said.

For information about the Y Academy and other YMCA programs, visit www.ymcanj.org. Anyone interested in volunteering at a Y Academy, can contact Lastella at slastella@ymcanj.org.

About YMCA of Greater Monmouth County
YMCA of Greater Monmouth County is here for all – to empower youth and teens, improve health and strengthen community. A leading nonprofit charity, the Y unites 36,000 people of all ages, incomes, and backgrounds. In 2019, we provided $875,000 in financial assistance to strengthen approximately 2,820 families in need. Our life-changing programs and services are anchored in 10 communities: health and wellness facilities in Freehold Township, Old Bridge and Red Bank; outdoor day camps in Millstone and Wall; a community center in Freehold Borough; counseling and social service centers in Eatontown, Matawan and Middletown; child care centers in Freehold Township, Matawan and Red Bank; and integrated in nearly 100 schools in Monmouth and Ocean counties. We’re based in Shrewsbury, NJ. Learn more at www.ymcanj.org.