City of San Marcos launches ‘Learning Hubs’ program for employees

Thousands of San Marcos students were scheduled to start school in-person on Aug. 18. In the weeks leading up to the start of school, COVID-19 numbers spiked, and plans to start in-person learning vanished. City of San Marcos leadership recognized an opportunity to support City employees as they prepared to balance the demands of their essential jobs and distance learning with their children.

The Parks and Recreation and Human Resources departments teamed up to quickly determine how to best assist City employees. That’s where the idea for ‘learning hubs’ was born.

Learning hubs are socially distanced classrooms providing online learning support for students of different ages and grade levels at the San Marcos Senior Activity Center. There are two classrooms with an average of 18 students that attend daily. Desks are spaced out and aisles are lined with power strips where students can charge the devices they need for online learning. While there are not on-site teachers, City staff members oversee the classrooms and provide support to students when needed. The City follows CDC guidelines by checking temperatures before students enter, prohibiting visitors (including parents) from entering the classroom, providing hand sanitizer and wipes to students, and following a strict cleaning protocol.

“The City has a number of staff members, across several departments, who have limited or no ability to work from home,” said Darren Chamow, program manager for the City of San Marcos Parks and Recreation Department. “When we got the news about school districts continuing distance learning due to COVID-19 numbers, we saw challenges ahead for City operations. The City is providing critical services and programs to the community. Without the learning hub, it would not have been possible for some of our employees to continue to work and support our community and assist their kids at the same time.”

The concept of the learning hub not only supports the City’s essential workers and their children, but also provides new job responsibilities for other City employees whose programs were put on hold or canceled for the year due to COVID-19. In addition, the learning hubs program provides the City with an opportunity to leverage underutilized facilities to provide support to City employees, who are providing essential services during the pandemic.

“Launching the program was a perfect example of timing meeting opportunity,” said Janelle Laughlin, human resources manager for the City of San Marcos. “The demands on our employees, as public servants, have never been greater. Overnight, we had to completely change the way we do business and how we provide programs and services to the San Marcos community.”

Program costs for this new offering have been largely covered by funds available from programs that were canceled due to COVID-19. The program will likely continue to provide support for City staff through the end of 2020 and potentially beyond.

“The math made sense and we got buy-in from City leadership, allowing us to quickly launch a program to support our employees, at a time when they needed it the most,” Laughlin said.

 

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