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Education

Tutoring Program Looks To Help County Students With Special Needs

With schools closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, students have had to adapt to trying to keep up with lessons remotely, from living rooms, kitchen tables and bedrooms.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Library and Miriam Learning Center will begin providing free tutoring services for kids with special needs starting Monday.

With the pandemic entering its seventh month, parents and educators are still trying to figure out the best way to manage virtual education. The new tutoring collaboration will allow eligible students from pre-K through college to receive up to two one-hour sessions a week on any topic.

In July, County Executive Sam Page announced that St. Louis County Library would receive $4 million for Chromebooks, Wi-Fi hotspots and virtual tutoring services through tutor.com. But Beth Rose, director of Miriam Learning Center, didn’t see options for students who learn best in other ways.

“So, I contacted the library, and they were very receptive to being able to provide services and funding to children with special needs,” Rose said. “So, [we] started conversations, started up a program, got it funded, and we rolled it out.”

Kristen Sorth, director of St. Louis County Library, echoed that enthusiasm in initial meetings with the center.

“We said, ‘Oh my gosh this is such a great idea,’” she recalled.

Rose stated that student eligibility will depend on demonstrating that a student doesn’t benefit from tutor.com’s other services and has financial need. Families of four with a gross annual income of $80,000 or less qualify; for larger families, the cutoff is $90,000.

In-person, socially distant tutoring will be available at five library branches and two Miriam centers. For parents and students who may be uncomfortable interacting face-to-face but still want specialized help, virtual meetings are available too.

Sorth explained that educators and librarians understood students require many different styles of learning and that going all-virtual could promote and widen gaps in learning progress for some kids.

“It’s just a wrinkle, like another thing, we’ve talked about this before, but just another crack that’s been exposed completely by the pandemic,” Sorth said.

The program, which is first come, first serve, will run from Oct. 12 to Dec. 15. But Sorth added she hopes the library and the Miriam Learning Center can continue the partnership beyond the end of the calendar year.

“We just feel like it’s a great partnership and a good resource for our residents in St. Louis County,” she said.

Follow Becca on Twitter: @itsreallyflick

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