Louisiana Church Refuses to Let Students Fall Behind in E-Learning
By Carl Stagner
Like others across the country, schools in the neighborhood of New Life Church of God in Palmetto, Louisiana, did not begin the 2020–2021 school year with much semblance of normalcy. About the only aspect of the fall semester’s start that was familiar was how similar it was to the final quarter of the previous school year. Distance/virtual learning was the name of the game students, parents, and teachers had to play for at least the first few weeks of school. Before school resumed in-person with restrictions in early October, and even after some families continue to do e-learning, the need for space, supervision, and support was abundantly clear. Thankfully, New Life Church of God, in partnership with the Louisiana Church of God Ministry and Retreat Center, stepped up to meet the need.
“We are providing a safe, socially distanced space for students from our church and the surrounding community to do their virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Pastor Dale Fontenot explains. “Our local school system began the school year totally virtual on September 8. To address the concerns of parents and students, we were inspired to begin ‘SAVE Our Kids.’ We refused to lose any of our students in this new learning experience.”
SAVE stands for “Student Assistance for Virtual Excellence” and came about with the ingenuity and innovation of the church’s children’s ministry and youth directors. “These ladies enthusiastically accepted the idea and we began the implementation process,” Dale explains. Of course, the challenges families face with e-learning go beyond space and supervision. There’s also the need for quality Internet access and technological support. Knowing this from the start, the church recruited two skilled high school seniors to assist.
Before in-person classes resumed, twenty-five students were enrolled in the church’s timely initiative, representing a broad span of grades from Kindergarten to high school. Considering caution regarding the coronavirus, the church capped enrollment at twenty-five to maximize space. But a waiting list quickly grew of families desiring to participate.
As of the end of September, Dale noted many of the students would remain in the program after the start of in-person classes. Undaunted, he asserted, they would continue to provide the service through the first nine weeks of school, at least. After that, they would reassess.
“Our prayer was to see students positioned in an environment where they would be challenged to grow academically, in addition to spiritual growth, and even growth in their character. With so many predicting that students would fall behind during this time, we are believing and advocating for so much better. We have a wonderful opportunity to serve our students at SAVE, as we begin each day in prayer and close with a chapel service at the end of the school day.”
Praise God for pastors like Dale Fontenot and congregations like New Life Church of God!
Help churches like these respond to urgent needs in their communities as a result of COVID-19:
Learn more about the response of Church of God Ministries to the coronavirus (COVID-19), including resources for you and your church, at www.jesusisthesubject.org/theway.