Parents and employees of Dolphin Research Center have created a “micro-school” on the Grassy Key campus. Kids are social-distanced, masked and attended by a proctor while their parents work. CONTRIBUTED

At the Dolphin Research Center, they call it micro-schooling, which is as good a word as any to describe what others have called flexibility in these unprecedented times. A group of parents at DRC have banded together, appropriated two otherwise empty classrooms, and hired a proctor to oversee the work of about 10 students on any given day. 

“We’re doing the best we can,” said Armando “Mandy” Rodriguez, DRC’s co-founder and chief operating officer. His two grandchildren, Rylee, 14, and Bryson, 12, attend. “Until it’s no longer necessary, we’ll be holed up here.”

Most Keys students won’t return to the classroom until Monday, Sept. 14. Then, elementary students will be attending daily, while middle and high school students attend on alternating days for what’s known as an A/B schedule.(See page 4 for more details.) 

Rodriguez said it’s been a blessing. He and other parents can keep tabs on their children, while also being able to focus on their work. It’s a needed break from others in the family bubble and a chance to see another group of kids, even if they aren’t exactly peers.

“Sometimes I help the little kids with their stuff,” said Rylee Seligson, Rodriguez’s granddaughter, an eighth grader. “I can help them log on if they need it, or answer questions about their homework.”

At DRC, the parents have hired a proctor to oversee the two classrooms. She is a college graduate who also attended school at DRC. Rodriguez said his grandchildren are thankful.

“This never happens … but they came up to me and said, ‘Pop pop, thank you for setting up this school,” he said. 

Rylee said she still misses friends and her teachers, but virtual micro-schooling does have an upside: she doesn’t have to primp for school every morning.

“You can turn your camera off,” she said. 

As a longtime DRC kid, she glosses over the most important part of micro-school at DRC: recess with the dolphins, sea lion, roosters, peacock, etc. Talk about enrichment.

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