ANDOVER, MASS. (WHDH) - A landscape and design company in Andover has solicited the help of a former teacher to lead a new class for the children of their employees dealing with remote learning.

Under normal circumstances, children would be in their classrooms and the garage at Samantha’s Gardens would be full of tools and supplies, but things have changed in the time of COVID-19.

“I’m very comfortable and confident it’s going to work,” Owner Samantha Mannarino said. “And I would rather have all the kids together and socialize then be locked down at home.”

This learning pod was Mannarino’s idea. Though her own kids are grown, many of her employees’ kids are not and they needed a way to continue working while helping their kids through this unprecedented school year.

“We needed to keep running a company and we wanted to keep everyone safe,” Mannarino explained.

So she enlisted the help of one of her own — Heather Forde.

Forde previously worked as a high school teacher in Northbridge before having children and then as a substitute for all grade levels in Pelham, New Hampshire.

With her background now being put to use, Forde is preparing to oversee the school work for 10 kids.

“They all technically have teachers,” she said. “They are in classrooms and they are getting someone else who is guiding the curriculum. I just have to be here to help, and that’s just mom 101 in general.”

The mother of two said this opportunity has been a godsend for her and that sentiment is shared by other employees of the company.

“I think it’s going to make a huge difference to just know there is somebody there overseeing things, helping when you have questions, and that to be with another group of kids – we are all in this together, we all have to do our school work,” parent Vlasta Benedict said.

Mannarino said they are working to ensure all employees and their kids remain sade as they navigate this difficult time together.

“We as a company are a family, and now the kids are part of that family,” she said.

Starting October 1, the kids will transition to a bigger building, and Mannarino says they will continue to allow kids to learn here for as long as they need to because, as she says, family comes first


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