Chris McGillicuddy from EB Education Services hosts an online tutoring session during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Manchester, Britain July 2, 2020. Picture taken July 2, 2020. EB Education Services/Handout via REUTERS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES MANDATORY CREDIT

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

A patchwork of reopening plans for public schools coupled with concerns with sending kids back to the classroom amid surging COVID-19 cases has prompted groups of parents across the country to pool their resources and pay a tutor to oversee their children’s remote learning. “Pandemic pods,” as they are called, highlight the challenges that many parents say they will face as they struggle to help their students with online learning while working a full-time job from home. But educators and advocacy groups warn that such groups could widen the achievement gap.

In Oakland, where most schools are on track to remain online-only, parents report the costs of hiring a teacher at $1,500-$2,000 per student per month. That cost precludes low-income students from having an opportunity to take part, educators say. Fourteen principals within the Oakland Unified School District signed a letter expressing their fears that pods will deepen learning inequalities and that they will not accommodate parents seeking to have their children in the same class as other kids in their learning pods. 

Others say that as teachers call for remote-only instruction due to safety concerns and as many school districts hold off on a final decision until the last minute, parents are under immense pressure to juggle safety, the need for their children to socialize, and their own abilities as homeschool teachers. While some experts say that pods are bound to be socioeconomically and racially segregated, others are calling on public institutions and nonprofits to step in to organize, coordinate, and fund their own pod learning programs. 

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

As school starts online, parents need to study up on ‘pandemic pods’ – and what they mean for equity – USA Today – 7/28/2020
The arrangement may cost the teachers, too. As public employees, teachers often receive pension and insurance benefits that cover themselves and their families. There’s no way to ensure that even well-to-do private family employers will, or can, bridge that gap. Some teachers may go for it to avoid coronavirus exposure in school or tedious online coursework.

Muse Knoxville launches ‘Learning Pods’ in KCS schools – WVLT 8 – 7/28/2020
“The museum is able to provide a supervised setting where children can be in an engaging learning environment, practice social distancing, while also having access to the exhibits and resources of Muse Knoxville,” says Nancy Laurence, Muse Knoxville’s Director of Experience.

Expert cautions learning pods could worsen Madison’s achievement gap – The Cap Times – 7/28/2020
For students without at-home support, it’s even more crucial that they learn among fellow students. Hafner emphasized that children learn through their peers, a social-emotional piece that is crucial to understand.

Philadelphia mom starts business offering pod learning – FOX 29 News Philadelphia – 7/28/2020
The former public school teacher with a master’s in education policy created a company called “Pupil Pod.” The pod is a group of four to six students in the same age range learning together at a host house in three or six-hour increments “Our teachers come to you. They’re totally vetted. They work within your pod. They can either supplement or subplan your district’s curriculum,” she explained.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

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