ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — A new way for businesses to make money is growing out of parents’s concerns in sending their children back to brick-and-mortar schools during the coronavirus pandemic.

At her Wednesday martial arts class in Orange County, 7-year-old Autumn Leeb shows she knows how to pack a punch, but soon she will be attacking her homework along with the punching bags at her dojo. 

What You Need To Know

  • Option frees up parents who work from home

  • Classes to be limited to 12 students

  • Schedule set up to match that of OCPS LaunchEd@Home

  • Business gets a chance to make up money lost during pandemic

“I feel like this is really good for us,” her mother, Jeanette Leeb, said. 

Jeanette, who works from home, was one of the first parents to sign up for a new distance learning program at Championship Martial Arts.

“She’s a social bug…,” Leeb said of her daughter. “I didn’t want her to feel isolated. She has a younger sister, but it’s not the same.”

Not only will Autumn get social interaction, but Jeanette said she will be able to better focus on her work while at home.

“Instead of me having to do my work from home stuff like when they’re in bed at night, and I have to stay up later, I can now do it during the day a little more,” Leeb said. 

The co-owner of Championship Martial Arts, Mike Metzger, said he and his business partner saw a need they could fill after education options for students were announced.

“We wanted to create an opportunity for parents who weren’t ready to send their kids to school, parents who still had to work, even stay-at-home parents who just need to get their child socializing again,” Metzger said. 

Classes will be limited to 12 students, and Championship Martial Arts will hire paraprofessionals and substitute teachers to support the children, he said.

The schedule will match the LaunchEd at Home schedule from Orange County Public Schools, Metzger said. They had to rush to get the program together once OCPS announced it would be starting school digitally on August 10 after they had indicated schools would reopen August 21.

Metzger said it’s also a great way for them to make back some money lost from the months-long shutdown resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s a win for a small business in the community,” he said. 

Rollins College education professor Debra Wellman said many businesses are taking advantage of this growing demand.

“I think you’re going to see any place that works with children is going to see this as an opportunity,” she said. 

She does worry that this service leaves out many families who may still feel unsafe sending their kids back if businesses are the only ones offering it.

“Because low-income families are not going to be able to afford this for their children,” Wellman said.