By Cheryl Fiandaca

FRAMINGHAM (CBS) – With many school districts switching to remote learning, there are growing concerns about kids getting left behind.

But, a Framingham Public Schools enrichment program called “The Explorers” is working to help families keep their kids on track.

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This week, eight-year-old Thomas Slavin was excited to show his mom some art work he made at The Explorers. His mom, Lisa Slavin, says she knew Thomas needed more “structure” amidst the move to remote learning.

“My second grader needed more structure. He wants to be outside. I knew he wouldn’t sit still, for me, at a dining room table all day long,” Lisa said.

Three of Lisa’s four children are school age. And with Framingham Public Schools remote learning, the Explorers Program is giving Tommy a chance to have a little bit of normalcy. But it is more than that.

Tiffany Lillie, the Out Of School Time Coordinator for Framingham Public Schools, calls the program an intervention that could level the playing field.

“The students are in their classrooms on their remote learning during the day,” says Lillie. “We are keeping up with their live schedules. Kids have hoola hoops that they are transitioning with and supporting their distancing. They are keeping their masks on.”

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It’s all part of an effort to help students, who are remote learning, from falling behind.

Before the pandemic, data released earlier this year from the Foundation for Metrowest found a significant number of kids were already struggling. The breakdown along racial and socioeconomic lines showed white students were 75 percent more likely to pass third grade reading tests than black students.

In Framingham, the gap for poorer students was even greater, with just 20 percent passing those same tests.

“Our concern now, as it relates to these disparities, is that the current hybrid models, the remote learning that’s going on, it may exacerbate the disparities that were already present in our communities,” says Jay Kim of the Foundation for Metrowest. “It is not unique to Metrowest, this is a statewide problem, this is national problem.”

Lisa knows Tommy is lucky to be in the Explorers Program. Still, like most parents, she’s concerned.

“It’s definitely a worry,” said Lisa. “We are all in this situation together. I feel fortunate that I have the opportunity, I know other students don’t.”

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The Explorers Program is run out of a handful of schools in the district and is not free, but it does offer scholarships.

Cheryl Fiandaca