Girls Inc. of Carpinteria prepares to reopen campus
Suddenly a volcano erupts in Carpinteria.
Or it’s time for a countdown. 10, 9, 8, 7 … a rocket blasts off!
Those are the kinds of adventures that await girls eager to prove they’re strong, smart and bold.
That’s the slogan of Girls Inc., which plans to reopen its Carpinteria campus June 1 on a half-day basis for ages 5 through 12.
And Girls Inc. of Carpinteria hopes to have its full reopening July 6, Executive Director Jamie Collins told the News-Press.
For now, the Carpinteria campus will have a partial reopening. Mrs. Collins said the initial enrollment will consist of eight young girls.
“We have built our facility to handle 20 girls at a time,” she said. “As Santa Barbara County continues to reopen, we’re reevaluating on a daily basis to see what our capacity will look like after the first couple weeks of June.”
She said the girls and their parents are excited about the reopening and that it will help families during the pandemic. “A lot of our parents are essential workers, so they’ve been working full time. It’s been the girls’ teenage brother or sister or uncles watching them at home.”
Mrs. Collins said the students’ adventures on the campus will range from reading books and learning about math to experimenting with volcanoes.
“They can make little individualized volcanoes,” Mrs. Collins said. “It’s pretty easy with baking soda and vinegar.
“The rockets are easy with old soda bottles,” she said, explaining the “fuel” is a safe mixture that propels them about 10 to 12 feet high.
Not quite as far as the moon, but the sky’s the limit for Girls Inc.
Mrs. Collins said the nonprofit is continuing to emphasize STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — for the girls, as well as literacy.
“For the first two weeks, school is technically in session for Carpintera, so it’s offering a lot of academic support and making sure elementary school kids are reading and getting their lessons done,” Mrs. Collins said. “Diana Rigby, the (Carpinteria Unified School District) superintendent, is really pushing that kids read for at least 30 minutes a day. That will be a big part of our program.”
Mrs. Collins said Girls Inc. also will do hands-on math activities.
The science experiments, including the volcanoes, are part of STEM kits that are at the Carpinteria campus. Mrs. Collins said the kits also have been sent to Santa Paula families served by Girls Inc. of Carpinteria.
The Carpinteria campus has been closed since Gov. Gavin Newsom’s March 15 shelter-in-place order during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since then, Girls Inc. has provided online content, including video tours of places like the White House and the Monterey Aquarium, for grades K-12, Mrs. Collins said.
Mrs. Collins said the online content, including Zoom video chats will continue as Girls Inc. reopens its doors.
“We are a state-licensed child care facility. We were never mandated to close, but chose to do so, following what was going on in the local community,” she said.
“Our community and our board felt we were ready to open,” Mrs. Collins said.
She noted social distancing will be stressed.
Inside, each girl will have her own desk and supplies.
Outside, the campus’ large size allows for the kids to be six feet apart, and their playing will consist of supervised games, Mrs. Collins said.
She added that staff will wear masks.
“Children are not required to wear masks,” Mrs. Collins said. “Parents can choose if they want their kids to wear them. We do have a limited supply of masks on the site.
“We feel very prepared,” she said. “We had a safety committee that’s made up of people from various industries in the county. They’ve been helping Girls Inc. of Carpinteria build up our safety plan and protocols.
“We feel secure and comfortable that we’ll be able to provide a safe experience for our girls and our staff.”
Mrs. Collins discussed Girls Inc.’s message of “strong, smart and bold” and how it applies to the pandemic.
“Eighty percent of families report they have been either laid off or furloughed,” Mrs. Collins said. “I’m sure a lot of our girls were exposed to something I would say are adult problems, not kid problems.”
She said Girls Inc. is trying to help the girls to be strong during this time.
“We’ve made over 250 wellness calls and checks on the families, just to say ‘hi’ and make sure everyone’s holding up OK,” she said.
Mrs. Collins said Girls Inc’ financial reserve has helped the nonprofit during the pandemic. She said Girls Inc. received a $10,000 economic disaster loan, as well as a Payroll Program Protection loan through Montecito Bank & Trust.
The COVID-19 pandemic meant cancellation of Girls’ Inc.’s annual Women of Inspiration luncheon, a major fundraiser that was scheduled for April. Mrs. Collins said Girls Inc. did its best to solicit funds, but fell $20,000 short of its goal.
But she said the nonprofit remains optimistic about its future.
“You have to be in this climate. We have to keep on trucking and doing what’s best for our girls in our community.”