Happening in the Hill (HitH): The COVID-19 Pandemic has had quite an impact in NJ. With the school year being cut short, how did that impact you?
TJ: Like everyone in the community – it impacted us greatly. The personal impact of social distancing, limited options to enjoy local restaurants, and remembering the mask every time we went to Lowes was difficult at times. That said, we are binge re-watching LOST as a family – so that is good.
Business wise, having an aftercare program when there is no school is “not easy”… We did have 6 students of essential personnel with us… so we got our share of online class work. We were able to take karate online and provide content via Zoom and Youtube.
We owe a huge expression of gratitude to the families that stayed engaged during the past few months. They helped us stay in business and helped us adapt and shape the program so that it still delivered value!
Everything is about reopening right now… Businesses have been adapting where they can, planning, and then adapting again as this situation has played out. It is the same everywhere but it has been difficult to see businesses in town suffering as much as they are. We know we will get back to something normal sooner or later. We know that local families will need childcare solutions for the summer and again in the Fall – so we continue to do what we can to ready our programs to serve the community.
(HitH): What’s on-tap for the summer programming at Fun and Fit, especially given COVID-19 and all of the quarantine restrictions?
TJ: Our road back is underway… Our Summer Program started operating on June 15 under the guidance provided by the Division of Children and Families. We have been open throughout the pandemic as an Emergency Child Care facility for essential personnel so we are comfortable with many of the restrictions in place on our operation. Some of the additional requirements mean canceling the majority of our field trips, and limiting enrollment. Masks are a requirement for our staff and strongly encouraged for students. There are a good number of operational procedures that we must follow as well.
Fran: We are still really excited about our Fun and Fit Summer Programing. We know that it will continue to be different than we originally planned, but we do expect to offer the program as close to the original vision as possible. While we are continuing the basic structure of our full day program, we’ll offer plenty of schedule flexibility with 2, 3, 4, or 5 day a week options and a choice of AM or PM for the summer sessions.
TJ Added: We recently finished construction on our 6,000 sq ft outdoor play space. It includes a secure fenced in area with rubber mulch, a picnic space, and trails around the area for nature walks. We knew we would be outside a lot this summer, but I think it will be even more than originally planned.
New 6000 sq ft Outdoor Space
(HitH): 2020/21 will be the 2nd school year for Fun and Fit extended. Tell us about the programing and if there’ll be any changes!
Fran: As our name suggests, it always starts with fun. The kids need some time to blow off steam. We have found that putting a structured physical activity in place as soon as they get to us, then a snack, helps them decompress, readies them for reading and homework, and then sets them up for free play time. When it comes to free play time, some want to do physical activities such as shooting baskets on the Pop-A-Shot. Others may want some time creating on the chalkboard wall, building at the Lego tables, or playing a board game. Our environment allows them to find something that resonates with them on that day.
TJ: On the academic side we launched a mandatory silent reading time, this will continue – As parents, our kids had what was called Silent Sustained Ready (SSR) every day. We think reading is critical to academic success. We standardized our approach to 20 minutes per day (except Fridays) for our older group. For our early readers, we have an instructor lead story time, or one on one reading session. We assist with homework (we consider ourselves “micro tutors”) – we don’t just give kids the answer, we work them through the process and teach. New Math still has me perplexed at times, so I have had to learn a lot too! We also have a dedicated laptop for Khan and Reflex math.
Fran: Oh, I almost forgot, and I believe it is very unique to Fun and Fit, we’ve installed several Alexa and Google devices for the children to use to time their reading period, answer ad-hoc questions, and play music during free play time.
(HitH): Thank You Fran and TJ, it’s been pleasure learning more about Fun and Fit extended care.
About Fran and TJ Coakley
Fran holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education with Minors in English and Social Studies. She has 3 teaching certifications and 10+ years of classroom experience in the K-12 education arena. Fran is licensed Karate instructor with 16+ years of martial arts experience and holds the rank of 5th Degree Black Belt.
TJ holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, a Minor in Sociology, and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration. He retired from corporate life and became a Certified Personal Trainer and is an adjunct professor at Rowan University. TJ is also a licensed Karate Instructor, a 5th Degree Black Belt and has 10+ years of experience coaching youth sports in Harrison Township.
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