SALEM — St. Joseph School here is using engaging challenges to help students fight the problems that come with isolation during the pandemic.

Youths may choose from a number of online after-school clubs that spark creativity. These include artistic clubs that feature acrylic painting and watercolors and those that inspire builders, including the Engineering Challenge and the Lego club. Oregon Green Team focuses on ecology and repurposing items. There’s also a sign language class and a knitting club. 

“A little something for everyone,” says Margaret Boyd, the sign language class leader and a St. Joseph pre-K teacher.  

Like many Oregonians, students have been in isolation for the last six months. However, they have fewer coping mechanisms to help them through the tough times. 

Many children don’t have a way to express their feelings about their frustrations or fears, note St. Joseph administrators. They can see the stress levels in their household rise, but they don’t have a way to cope with the changes.  

School can be a great support system for students, said St. Joseph leaders. It can be a way to escape the troubles of home and focus on something else. But that is difficult when in-person classes are only two hours long and everything is different.

The after-school clubs were formed so that children could be successful and confident in themselves and their abilities in a safe environment, said administrators.

Plus, they’re a lot of fun.

One parent says: “My boys are starved for something interesting to do, and to be able to do it with their friends, even virtually, is a great idea.” 

Classes are about an hour each, and take place from around 3 to 4 p.m. most days.