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Sylvania STEM Center faces uncertain future under COVID-19 strain

Published: Aug. 21, 2020 at 6:45 PM EDT
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SYLVANIA, Ohio (WTVG) - Many businesses are struggling due to COVID-19, and the Sylvania STEM Center is no exception. Last year the center had 360 kids on its robotics teams. This year, only 40 kids are enrolled for the fall.

The center is heavily tied to the schools, so when the schools shut down,so did the center. Its extracurricular programs and robotics teams were all scrapped.

Staff were able to run a limited summer program, but it wasn’t enough to keep the books in the black. The small staff is willing to accept layoffs and work as volunteers, but there’s still a giant warehouse with a big upkeep cost.

Many think the center is funded by the schools, but that’s not true.

“We are a non-profit and we do get some donations, but most of what we do it fee-based. Whether it’s teams or programs or whatever. What we do is how we stay open. And if we’re not able to run our programs, then the center can’t make money and can’t pay its bills,” says executive director Tom Burnworth.

The center has come up with a creative way to raise some funds.

They are offering a remote learning lab, where kids can come during the day to work on their school work. The lab will be open from 8 to 3:30 and kids can come in to do their schoolwork. Wi-fi and laptops are available.

Space is limited to 20 kids every day due to physical distancing, and the cost is $20 per day.

If the kids finish their homework, the staff can keep them entertained with fun STEM activities. Representatives emphasize this is not a daycare, nor are they teachers, but they can try to help the kids with their schoolwork whenever possible.

The center is also continuing to run its robotics teams, which is has operated for years.

“To see the lightbulbs go off on the kids'... you know... it’s amazing. Watching them work through problems and being a community resource has been just awesome for all these years,” says Burnworth.

If you want to enroll your kids in any of the center’s programs, visit their website.

However, enrollment might not be enough to save the center. The financial situation is so dire that the center is also asking for donations. They have a GoFundMe page that is trying to raise $25,000. The cost of upkeep for the center is $27,000 for a year, so the staff is hoping to make that goal, transition to volunteering, and be able to keep their doors open to teaching kids for another year. You can access their GoFundMe here.

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