Working parents at UAB have additional resources to ease the stress of virtual learning for children

UAB and UAB Medicine are offering options to ease the burden of working parents who have children learning virtually.  

Collab 2Many working parents are struggling to balance work with home life that now has the added stress of educating their children. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham looking at employee distress found that organizational efforts to reduce home and work stressors may have a significant impact on improving well-being. UAB leadership recognized this distress, particularly for working parents, and is responding to challenges some employees face as K-12 school districts adopt hybrid teaching plans for the fall term.

“UAB’s most important assets, now and always, are the people whose passion and dedication are essential to fulfilling our mission, and many of them have told us their most pressing concerns include the care, safety and education of their children,” said UAB President Ray L. Watts. “Investing in solutions to help provide safe, flexible, supportive environments for their children is in the best interests of our employees and the university and the right thing to do while we navigate uncertain waters.”

In a survey conducted in July, nearly 1,000 UAB employees said they lacked resources for the care and education of their children that would enable them to perform their jobs this fall. Hybrid learning plans for the fall semester announced by metro-area K-12 schools add another wrinkle.

Some employees with school-age children have varying needs that require more creative solutions, says Emily Wykle, director of External Affairs in UAB’s Office of the President. Wykle and Lauren Leach, associate vice president of Planning and Population Health for UAB Medicine, have worked with senior leadership and UAB’s Childcare Taskforce to devise and implement some short-term remedies while school districts assess and adapt their fall plans.

“We were excited for the opportunity to provide a high-quality learning environment for the children of our faculty and staff during this difficult time,” said Reid Jones, CEO of UAB Medicine. “We value the commitment our faculty and staff have made to the patients at UAB Medicine, and we wanted to invest in this program to support them.”

UAB allocated limited funding to provide short-term relief for parents through the following programs:

  • UAB and UAB Medicine subsidized more than 60 full-time slots in The McWane CenterFall Learning Lab during the period Aug. 31-Oct. 30. 
  • UAB established a drop-in virtual learning hub in The Hilton at UAB for children of faculty and staff who may be required to work on campus periodically. 
  • Based on availability of funding, UAB Medicine employees applied for subsidies that were provided for other approved programs for children in grades K-8.

Drop-in virtual learning hub

The virtual learning hub at the Hilton Birmingham provides a safe and supervised site that enables children in grades K-8 to work independently on assignments while their parents teach, perform lab duties, etc.  

“As a new faculty member, I had to adjust to my new position during a very different time,” said Megan Carpenter, OTD, assistant professor in the UAB School of Health Professions. “Having resources like UAB’s new virtual learning hub has given me a chance to settle into a new position, while having a safe place for my children to learn and get their schoolwork completed.”

Carpenter has utilized the virtual learning hub for her twin daughters, who are in third grade and learning virtually. Having the resource to continue her children’s education has allowed her to get settled into her office, take care of administrative tasks as a new faculty member and set up necessary meetings with co-workers to successfully run the Low Vision Rehab doctoral program.

The drop-in study program is offered Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Parents are asked to pay $15 per child per day to help defray operational expenses. Financial assistance may be available for those who need it. Time slots of two to three hours must be reserved in advance, and parents are expected to provide devices and masks for their children.  

UAB’s Childcare Taskforce provided guidance in establishing policies and procedures consistent with those implemented to ensure campus wide safety. Click here to register your child for the drop-virtual learning hub.

Collab 4The McWane Center Fall Learning Lab

The McWane Science Center partnered with UAB and UAB Medicine for a nine-week learning lab program to support the virtual, out-of-school learning needs of UAB employees and their children in kindergarten through sixth grade. The Fall Learning Lab program at The McWane Science Center provided young students with a safe and engaging environment where they completed their school-based virtual learning assignments paired with a fun, educational enrichment opportunity that helped them explore science, technology, engineering and math.

“Our education team provides an outstanding experience for the children in our learning labs,” said Amy Templeton, president and CEO of The McWane Science Center. “The labs give them a safe and engaging environment for online school and allow us to inspire wonder and curiosity about our world through our additional STEM programming. The parents tell us how much it means to them that their children look forward to coming every day. We have enjoyed a long and successful relationship with UAB and are very pleased to continue that relationship through these fall learning labs.”

The McWane Science Center’s education team and staff worked with each participant to provide a memorable learning experience. Some of the key aspects of this program include:

  • Grade-based classrooms with fewer than 12 students per class.
  • Virtual learning time to support educational responsibilities provided by their school.
  • Afternoon programming that provides fun and engaging, hands-on science learning experiences that are developmentally and grade-appropriate.
  • An in-person environment that is safe and supports limited classroom capacity, social distancing, face coverings for all students and a regimented cleaning protocol.
  • Lunch and snacks provided daily.
  • Students are required to have their own device to complete schoolwork.

The Fall Learning Lab is offered 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday through Oct. 31. The slots are prioritized for employees with financial constraints who are required to work on-site. Cost to an employee ranges from $25-$75 per week, per child, for those whose salary ranges from $31,200-$75,000 annually. Complete an online application to be considered. More detailed information and applications are posted on oneuabmedicine.org.