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Youth Affected by Closures

While school closures continue, academics aren’t the only aspect of COVID-19 precautions affecting Molokai’s youth.

The Molokai Youth Center, an organization that provides an after-school foundation and school break programs for hundreds of keiki ages 8 to 17, had to close its doors due to its location in a County building — which is closed for 30 days along with other county facilities — and the mandates for no gatherings larger than 10 people.

“When I received the email confirming our building is closed for 30 days, I’ve had quite a few parents contact me,” said Andrea Dudoit, director of the Youth Center. “Right now, some families still have to work so they depend on us… My hands are tied, we can’t do anything.”

On a normal day, she said, they can have nearly 150 kids walk through their door. Youth come directly after school and they can get homework help, play outdoor sports, do art and activities. And they can eat.

“We provide every kid that walks in here free snack and then we provide free hot dinner and sometimes even parents join them,” said Dudoit. “They know at 5 o’ clock they can come. And that’s going to be difficult for them [without it.]”

She estimated about 50 keiki regularly depend on the food they receive at the Youth Center.

“There’s a lot of mixed emotions when it comes to this,” she said. “This is why we’re here, this is why we do it — to not be able to have that contact with the kids, it’s difficult for my staff and I because we never expended this and the kids never expected this.”

Dudoit said Friday, staff put together boxes of food for families to pick up. She’s trying to organize a hot meal that could be picked up curb-side but is still working out the details. While she’s also trying to figure out another location that would allow Youth Center services to continue, working within the 10-person limit is difficult.

Many students also rely on meals at school to meet their nutritional needs. After extending spring break an additional week, the state Dept. of Education announced last week it plans to resume classes on April 7. During this time, the DOE is providing grab-and-go breakfast and lunch on weekdays at select schools during the closure. On Molokai, Molokai High School is the only designated location for this service, with breakfast available 7:30 to 8 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. to 12 noon. Meals will be in containers outside the cafeteria.

Meanwhile, with uncertainties continuing, teachers are scrambling to set up remote, online lessons for their students. On Molokai, though, many families don’t have internet service, so teachers have said they are simply doing their best to provide academic support and learning options. Many parents are preparing to support their children through homeschooling.

Because of the classroom interruptions, the DOE received approval to cancel federally mandated testing for this school year.

“At this time, the top priority of our haumana and staff should be staying healthy and adapting to their new learning environments,” Superintendent Dr. Christina Kishimoto said. “In these unprecedented times with rapidly changing conditions, the Department’s efforts are focused on helping students continue to learn and grow through alternative instructional delivery methods.”

The information in this story is current as of press deadline Sunday, March 23 but with the current situation changing rapidly, updates will be available on The Molokai Dispatch Facebook page and website.

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