COVID-19 forces Stepping Stone Academy to step back

By: Adrienne Wallace | Twitter: @PGJournal
Posted: June 1, 2020 | 4:30 p.m.

Owner, director committed to remain open for area families

REGION – It hasn’t been easy. Stepping Stone Academy owner says the company will survive, but it isn’t without sacrifice.

Those sacrifices, Meagan Wall says have come in the form of layoffs, cut hours, reduced classrooms, and even fewer numbers of students coming through the doors.

Because of COVID-19 with orders from Gov. Ralph Northam, she was forced to close one after-school location.

“That was because it was held at the McKenney community gym, and that had to close,” Wall explained. Because of closing that location and having to reduce enrollment to meet one teacher per to nine students, we have had to cut back.”

Also, many students withdrew from courses and the program because either their parents weren’t considered essential workers and were no longer going to their job cutting their family budgets, as well as giving them time at home. Other parents, Wall said, were just not comfortable sending their children to daycare or the classroom because of the risk of the virus.

Despite cutbacks and those concerns, the local business owner explains the remaining team is ensuring safety measures are taken and the youngsters, their families, and her staff are protected.

She’s reduced staff from nine to six full time while others have cut hours. Yet, the licensed teacher says all members of the staff, even those who have been laid off are positive and supportive during what state government leaders are calling a pandemic.

“My center is a small, super tight group, including, not only the staff but kids and their parents,” Wall noted. “We really are a family here.” Everyone is in good spirits, even the staff who are losing hours and asked to do more work.”

However, the former Dinwiddie Public Schools teacher, said she sees the kids are starting to get over the “hump that this is like a vacation. Now they are starting to think, ‘We have to do this every week.’” Though Stepping Stone is keeping its preschool busy even while they are missing out on the previously scheduled twice monthly field trips, students are starting to realize this is not just an extended spring break from their normal routine.

“The kids that are here are doing their school work here, and we’re helping out here as much as we can,” Wall said. “These essential parents are working even more hours, and then they have to homeschool too. Now, we are doing that for them.”

The Longwood University graduate understands who challenging it can be to teach your own children.

“I am a teacher, and homeschooling your own kids – It’s just not the same as the classroom when it’s coming from mom. They are unimpressed with my college degree and teaching license.”

While Stepping Stone is facing its own challenges, Wall made a commitment to the community and her “families.”

“One of the things I promised my clients and community was that I was not going to close unless the government mandated that,” Wall said. “It’s important to me that families who needed to go to work could go to work and provide for their families, and as long as we can be, we will be open. Things are tough enough without parents having to run around trying to find daycare.”

She does recognize the closures and layoffs are going to have a ripple effect negatively impacting the economy and family budgets. She suggested just her small business is an example of those impacts with employees laid off or hours cut which means less money going into the home for essential as well as entertainment all which helps boost the economy. “It’s going to be a big problem, and the longer this is happening, the longer the effects.”

She, like most, wishes the Coronavirus hadn’t struck the world and locality and believes those most impacted are the children.

“It just breaks my heart thinking about the kids who are not here,” Wall shared. “When they made the announcement about schools closing for the year, I just started to cry. Some of these kids are being sentenced to an extra three months in a home where they may face abuse, neglect, or food shortage. I know our kids are OK, but for so many others … it just breaks my heart.”

She did express how proud she is of the kids.

“Not just ours, all the kids I have contact with. They don’t even know they are being brave and probably won’t understand what they are going through until they are much older,” the Stepping Stone owner and director noted. “If anyone needs a lesson in resilience, all they have to do is look at how gracefully these children have handled their lives flipped inside out overnight, and they are still rolling along.”

Copyright 2020 Womack Publishing

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