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Boys & Girls Clubs Ready for New Role as Virtual Learning Hubs for Students



Photo of the math facts wall at the Zimmerman location of the Fresno Boys and Girls Clubs
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The Zimmerman Club has been a ghost town since April 1 when the site just north of downtown Fresno and other Boys and Girls Clubs of Fresno County closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Diane Carbray hopes that’s about to change.

CEO/President Diane Carbray

Carbray, president and CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Fresno County, said the nonprofit is in talks with school districts to provide space for virtual learning hubs for students while schools remain closed.

“We think it’s a win-win for us and families and kids,” Carbray told GV Wire℠.

Everything is on hold for now while the county’s coronavirus infection rates remain high, she said.

Fresno is one of more than three dozen counties that are being monitored by the state of California because of high infection and hospitalization rates. Schools in those counties must remain closed until the counties are off the state watchlist for 14 consecutive days, according to current rules.

Virtual Learning Hubs Developing for Students

But that has left a lot of working parents with a dilemma of trying to oversee their children’s distance learning while holding down their jobs. As a result, nonprofits are developing plans to create virtual learning hubs where small groups of students can gather in a supervised setting and do their online schooling.

Carbray said she was first approached by Selma Unified Superintendent Tanya Fisher, who was looking for options for her district and wondered if the town’s Boys and Girls Club might be available. Since then, Carbray said, she’s had conversations with Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson and other school districts about using the nonprofit’s spaces — there are 15 clubs scattered across Fresno County and also in Madera County —for virtual hubs.

Fisher said the proposal is still in the discussion phase, but once the Boys and Girls Clubs and Fresno County Department of Public Health give a green light, “we would then present the information to our board for further discussion and approval of the partnership.”

Fresno Unified spokeswoman Nikki Henry said the district is in talks with several agencies, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of Fresno County, about providing space for virtual learning hubs.

“We are continuing to explore potential partnerships to provide services to our students but don’t have any formalized updates at this time,” she said.

Finding Available Spaces

Carbray said Fresno Unified has said its top priority is to provide virtual learning spaces for foster and homeless youth. She also wants to make sure club members can get a space at the virtual learning hubs.

The library at the Boys and Girls Club Zimmerman Club could hold a “learning pod” of students. (GV Wire/Nancy Price)

Chief operating officer Kristin Salidivar

At the Zimmerman Club, the library, computer lab, and teen room are among the spaces where small cohorts of students could set up their laptops or tablets, said Kristin Saldivar, the chief operating officer.

About 40 students could safely be accommodated at the Zimmerman Club using the smaller rooms, she said.

“Learning pods” of no more than nine students would remain together and not interact with other pods of students, Carbray said. Each pod would be overseen by a staffer assigned to that pod to limit contact with other students and adults.

The massive gym also could provide a space for students, although Carbray and Saldivar want to keep it available for indoor physical exercise, since outdoor exercise might not be an option with the dangerous air pollution levels now. Once the air clears, students could use the playgrounds next door at Tehipite Middle School.

Prepared for Kids to Return

Staff has been trained and outfitted with safety equipment, and Zimmerman Club has touchless thermometers to measure temperatures of incoming students, and will keep a daiily record, Carbray said.

Bathroom usage will be limited and monitored, and bathrooms sanitized on a regular basis through the day, she said.

The Zimmerman Club also has a full-service kitchen and can prepare breakfasts and lunches for students who come to the virtual hub.

Kids are missing the Boys and Girls Club and are eager to return, Saldivar said. “No. 1 — it’s their club,” she said. “But we’re also trying to figure out how we can be supportive of parents who can’t manage daycare.”

The Boys and Girls Club also is in talks with the Department of Public Health about when it might reopen to afterschool activities, but likely not until after the county’s coronavirus infection rate goes down, Carbray said.

Watch: Great Futures Start at Boys & Girls Clubs of Fresno County

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email