By Kris DiLorenzo
Beginning Sept. 10, 2020 when Ardsley schools reopen, House of Sports at 1 Elm Street is offering the Ardsley Collaborative Learning program; Life, at 2 Lawrence St., will house the Robert Jacobson Sports Foundation (RJS) Drop-In Center.
Both facilities closed in mid-March, and reopened in late June, when Governor Cuomo’s Phase 4 commenced. Life has offered outdoor dining since then, and is now open for private parties, though it is restricting attendance to 60 people in a space that can accommodate 600. As of late June, HoS was permitted to host day camps. Right now, non-contact sports and training are allowed. The building is operating at about 10 percent of capacity, i.e., 200 people.
Both programs offer daily schedules mirroring a typical school day: academics in the morning and afternoon, interspersed with breaks for lunch and other activities. However, program parameters differ.
The House of Sports program is open to students in grades K-12, and according to general manager Frank Lombardy, will accommodate as many as possible while maintaining proper social distancing. The RJS Drop-In Center, for children grades 2-6, is capped at 40 participants.
Both programs will assign children to a small, age-appropriate group (pod) supervised by instructors. House of Sports instructors are staff members, mostly college students or grads, according to Lombardy. The Drop-In Center is overseen by Glenn Leibel, M.Ed., owner of the RJS organization. He has been a substitute teacher in the Elmsford school system since 2008. Drop-In Center instructors are Manhattan College students matriculating in education.
Both programs require participants to bring their own computers. House of Sports will set up desks at least 6 feet apart on its basketball court, and if necessary will use its party room or indoor turf field. The RJS program will use Life’s two classrooms and an open area.
The House of Sports program also offers optional physical education or sports-oriented activities by shortening the lunch hour. “The sports activities do not include competition,” Lombardy emphasized. “For example, basketball would be conducted from a skills perspective: clinics for shooting.”
Leibel stressed that the Drop-In program doesn’t include organized sports, though RJS runs children’s programs for basketball, volleyball, lacrosse, football, and cheerleading, and offers individual volleyball and lacrosse lessons. The Center may include non-contact activities such as kickball and running games. The Center has hired two guitarists to run music activities, and will have a gaming center where children can pay online. Yoga will be added to the schedule. Though RJS also provides in-home tutoring for elementary school students, Leibel said of the Drop-In Center, “We are not a tutoring service, but we will try to help students who are struggling to get their work done.”
The two programs differ most in their structure and fees. The House of Sports program requires a commitment to the same days in either a five- or 10-week session. The five-week session, at $75 per day, runs through Oct. 5; the 10-week session through Nov. 13, at $65 per day. There are separate fees for early drop-off, late pick-up, after-school activities, and tutoring. Regular hours are 8:15 a.m. to 3 p.m.
House of Sports will offer its program until schools return to a normal schedule. “There’s no playbook for this,” Lombardy commented.
The RJS Drop-In Center allows parents to reserve just the days they need, for the entire school year. “We’re not asking for a big commitment,” Leibel noted. The Center’s fees are $60 per day, with extra charges for early drop-off and late pick-up. Regular hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“The goal is to be as flexible as possible, for the parent who needs to work, or for just getting a break from being the in-house teacher,” Leibel said.
Both programs will follow CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Preventions) protocols: daily health screening and temperature checks, social distancing, face coverings, facility cleaning and sanitizing, and regular hand washing.
Despite their differences, the motivation for the programs is the same.
In mid-summer Lombardy heard about the Ardsley School District’s proposed hybrid learning alternative.
“I noticed the flaw in that method, where parents have to be working outside the home, with children in the schools only two days a week,” he explained. “Parents need care for them. There is a need for students to learn somewhere other than home if Mom and Dad can’t be there.”
Lombardy emailed area school superintendents describing his idea and asking how House of Sports could help them. Ardsley Superintendent Ryan Schoenfeld responded. Lombardy plans to remain in contact with the school district.
In July, Leibel presented his Drop-In Center idea to Schoenfeld, who thought it was feasible. “There’s a huge need for childcare going on now,” Leibel stated. “I understand the implications of the hybrid model, the effect that it’s going to have on parents. It’s important to have a center to drop off their kids, because the parents need to go back to work. Looking ahead at what was going on, I thought the Center would be a really good way to help parents out.”
Leibel doesn’t feel the RJS Drop-In Center competes with House of Sports’ Collaborative Learning program. “House of Sports will be essential and my place will be essential as well. I think it’s great for the community. It’s great that House of Sports is doing it as well.”