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Support available for working Sumter families with virtual learners

The Sumter YMCA and The Vintage Learning Center are among those offering support.

The Sumter School District remains virtual as the coronavirus continues to pose a threat, creating a challenge for some families who have to work during the day.

“One of my parents called that asked what we were doing because she had an 11-year-old,” Barney Gadson, who leads the M.H. Newton Family Life Center, said. “She said that she was going to have to leave her home alone and lock the door and turn the alarm on and that didn’t resonate well with me.”

Gadson's center typically offers summer camp and after school programs, but, since schools went virtual, they’re helping in a different way.

“What we have tried to do is create a space where children can come in and receive adult supervision as they enter school,” Gadson said. “We decided to do this to allow parents an opportunity to go to work and have peace of mind that their children were safe.”

Their 25 slots have filled – a sign of the need, according to Gadson. Similar centers have been popping-up around town to try to help.

Credit: Kayland Hagwood
Student at a Sumter virtual learning center

Bryant Woods created The Vintage Learning Center at 810 Broad Street, providing a meal, adult support and a clean environment to those ages 5 to 12.

“Our age group is five to 12, which is very critical… again, making sure they get the education and support system they need,” Woods said. “Instead of doing anything with retail, I decided to help out the community with the kids.”

The center requires face masks and temperature checks, according to Woods, and operates Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

There is a $35 application fee and the weekly rate is $84.99.

They can only have 16 students to meet guidelines, but they do have slots available. Those interested can call 803-306-2642 or visit the center.

The Sumter YMCA is also offering a space for virtual learners.

The weekly fee for the camp starts at $125, but financial assistance is available for those in need. There's also a $25 discount for siblings.

Families can register at the Sumter YMCA located at 510 Miller Road, Sumter, SC or call 803-773-1404 for more details.

Gadson says he hopes to see more safe spaces created for families in need.

"If churches opened up their facilities and worked with the school district maybe to provide them with extra support, it may go a long way in getting things done," Gadson said.