ASHLAND, Ky. — The Highlands Museum and Discovery Center has been a lonely place for much of the last few months, with patrons largely absent because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That goes double for the museum’s fourth floor, which was remodeled a few years ago as an event venue but which has remained empty during the pandemic.
It’s not empty anymore. Starting this week, the museum is using the space as a schoolroom of sorts.
For a fee, parents can send their children for the school day to the museum, where they assemble on the fourth floor under the watchful eye of a proctor.
They open their laptops, put on their headphones and log into their classroom Zoom meetings.
For the next few hours, they do their schoolwork with their virtual classes.
During breaks they visit various museum exhibits, supervised by staffers, and let off steam in the basement-level Discovery Center.
It’s an idea executive director Carol Allen had a few weeks ago while wondering how the museum could use the 12,500-square-foot space.
The fourth floor typically is booked for weddings and such events. With the pandemic came a flurry of postponements and cancellations, however.
Being a retired teacher, Allen understood the predicament in which working parents find themselves.
“Working parents are up the creek without a paddle. Some are desperately looking for a safe place where their children can work virtually,” she said.
So she had large round tables set up, hired the proctor and got the word out that the service was available.
Now there are nine children in grades ranging from kindergarten to sixth who spend their days there. Right now, there are children from the Ashland and Russell districts.
The proctor is Greg Stump. He does not teach the children, although he is studying for a master’s degree in education. Rather, he supervises them while they go about their individual virtual-classroom business.
He is there to assist with technology glitches and answering minor questions.
The children follow strict COVID-19 safety guidelines, Allen said. That involves social distancing, masks and sanitization.