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Homework help, camps, play pods | These St. Louis organizations are providing child care options for parents

Businesses and organizations are providing alternatives for parents while school buildings are closed and kids learn virtually

ST. LOUIS — As students begin to return to school — many in virtual settings — parents who work at home or out of the home are looking for help. 

Whether it's a safe place to go or homework help, organizations in the St. Louis area are offering child care services. We've rounded up a list of resources for busy and stressed parents.

Gateway Region YMCA

The Gateway Region YMCA's Y Enrichment Program (YEP) offers programs for children ages 5-12. Children who are learning virtually can attend programs at select YMCA locations where they can work on their school assignments and get homework help. There are also programs for children who are enrolled in hybrid learning that can fill in the gaps.

The Y will provide Wifi; children must bring their own meals and snacks.

Staff will wear masks at all times and children will be required to wear masks when they are inside and social distancing of 6 feet is not possible.

"Our program provides a safe, nurturing environment that provides learning support to children," Gateway Region YMCA spokesperson Megan Touchette said. "We want parents to go back to work with peace of mind - that was our main focus. Our reputation for consistency and safety, as well as our focus on youth development, gives parents the confidence they need to trust us with their children."

Costs vary depending on location and hours. For example, the Carondelet Park location offers full-day child care from 6:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. and costs $220 per week per child (nonmember pricing). However, financial assistance is available for those who qualify and according to its website, no one is turned away.

So far, about 200 children have enrolled in the YEP program, Touchette said.

Little Bits Gym

The Little Bits Gym in Lake St. Louis is offering camp and homework help. Children will have access to a study hall with homework assistance, movies and reading times. They'll participate in gym activities like ninja zone and gymnastics.

Hours run 8 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. at a cost of $35 per day. 

The Magic House

The Magic House in Kirkwood is offering a learning camp for children in kindergarten through fifth grade starting Aug. 24.

The camp will supplement school-based learning with STEAM and social studies interactive experiences. Students will have access to a virtual learning lab when they need to be online.

Participants will be divided into "play pods" with a maximum of 10 children in each pod to allow for social distancing.

The program hours run from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m., Monday through Friday at a cost of $45 for nonmembers and $37.50 for members.

RELATED: Tutors, pods and mentors | How St. Louis area parents plan to navigate virtual school

Olympia Gymnastics

Olympia Gymnastics locations in Chesterfield, Ellisville and Maryland Heights are offering "E-learning Camps" for children in kindergarten through fifth grade. There are options for full or half-day schedules.

According to its website, certified teachers are directing the program in small groups. Children will also participate in other activities like physical education, games and arts and crafts.


SkyZone in Fenton is offering SkyStudy, the "ultimate combination of virtual school & recess" for children in kindergarten through eighth grade. 

The schedules can accommodate students' schedules whether they are 100% virtual or if they are in a hybrid model.

Costs vary depending on the number of days and hours the child will be in camp. For example, a full day runs from 8 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. at a cost of $69.99 per day or $264.99 for a full week.

SkyZone will provide socially distanced workstations for students and attractions, and high-touch points will be sanitized throughout the day.

Boys and Girls Club of Greater St. Louis

The Boys and Girls Club is finalizing plans to provide support for students and families in nine school districts within the communities it already serves in St. Louis and St. Louis County. The plans will be released in the coming week.

"We've never opened during the day before, but we are going to have to shift," said Shuntae Shields Ryan, vice president marking and communications. "The focus for us has been to explore ways to ensure kids have a place, parents have support, and schools have a partner in the education of our communities."

The plans range from a hybrid model with the clubs opening with limited days to a fully open model with the clubs open every day.

The organization will continue its traditional after school programs.

Learning pods and tutors

Parents are also bringing tutors into their homes, creating learning pods with other families. Jessica Beeson, who owns St. Charles-based tutoring company Willow Tree Tutoring, said she has received dozens of inquiries from parents since many school districts announced their plans for virtual learning.

Beeson said the tutors — either in a pod or one-on-one — will work with the school districts' established curriculum and teachers' lesson plans. 

RELATED: Back-to-school guide: Social distancing, virtual learning, classroom safety