Church hosts public 4K, kindergarten classes for 2020-2021 school year

The poem “To a Child” by Christopher Morley (see below) is cited by the Rev. Karen Gygax Rodriguez when she thinks about watching the 4K (pre-K for children aged 4 years) and kindergarten children from Green Lake (Wis.) Public School using the basement of her church, The Federated Church of Green Lake, for their classes.

Because of COVID-19 social distancing rules, the superintendent and principal asked the church—located across the street from the school—whether they could use the church’s lower level for full-day 4K and kindergarten classes for the 2020-2021 school year. Each class had 20-25 children.

The church agreed, and a major decluttering followed. A grant from American Baptist Home Mission Societies covered the costs of new carpeting in one room and painting throughout. Additional costs included heat, water, snow removal and salting.

The school used four rooms for classrooms, one room for a teachers’ lounge, one room for storage, the fellowship hall for lunch and indoor winter activities, and the kitchen to help with meals. When weather permitted, the children enjoyed outdoor recess at a nearby park.

Just as the sidewalks were filled with chalk art, the building’s lower level was filled with grass growing in paper cups. Bean seeds sprouted in Ziploc bags taped to stairwell windows.

“We benefitted from hearing the exuberant joy of the kids, as they were able to come to school every day,” says Rodriguez. Classes met for the entire year, with the exception of a two-week quarantine when a kindergartener tested positive for COVID-19. The children wore masks for the full year.

All church activities—including AA group meetings and youth discipleship classes—were moved to the main floor. Gates were installed so that church and school spaces remained separate. It was impossible to go between the upper and lower levels without using outside doors to do so.

God, Rodriguez says, used the church building to fill a need.

“It was such an exciting opportunity to be community together, to reach out in a time of deep need, to cherish and help provide for the lives of our youngest children, and to allow our relationships to grow in this way,” she says. “The children will always remember the year they went to school at the local church.”

The greatest poem ever known
Is one all poets have outgrown:
The poetry, innate, untold,
Of being only four years old.

Still young enough to be a part
Of Nature’s great impulsive heart,
Born comrade of bird, beast, and tree
And unselfconscious as the bee—

And yet with lovely reason skilled
Each day new paradise to build;
Elate explorer of each sense,
Without dismay, without pretense!

In your unstained transparent eyes
There is no conscience, no surprise:
Life’s queer conundrums you accept,
Your strange divinity still kept.

Being, that now absorbs you, all
Harmonious, unit, integral,
Will shred into perplexing bits—
Oh, contradictions of the wits!

And Life, that sets all things in rhyme,
may make you poet, too, in time—
But there were days, O tender elf,
When you were Poetry itself!

(“And How Are the Children?” American Baptist Home Mission Societies 2021 Discipleship and Christian Education Guide, p. 9.)