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"Schools may not open to students this fall, but churches might — for remote learning"

Published in Presbyterian Outlook Magazine (RNS)  July 27, 2020 

From Connecticut to Hawaii, congregations are seeking ways to support families still smarting from last spring’s sudden adjustment to home-based learning during the pandemic lockdown. They’re exploring how underutilized church buildings might be put to a new use that allows education to continue while freeing up parents to work and attend to other responsibilities.

Proposals range from hosting students during online classes to providing study hall space for them to work independently.

Remote learning will be the rule for schoolchildren in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, for at least nine weeks this fall as the city tries to stem a surging coronavirus caseload. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll all be staying home. Some could be in church instead.

That’s the vision at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, one of several churches in Winston-Salem hoping to host remote-learning sites for small groups of socially distanced kids.

...as many as 30 students would gather daily — spread across three buildings at St. Timothy’s campus — in the mornings. Church volunteers would enforce health protocols, tutor, and lead prayers to begin and end the day.

Trinity UMC in Houston to open learning pods and expects many other Houston churches to join in the movement.

“We believe we can handle at least 75 kids at our church alone and we will give them everything they need to make it. We are talking about breakfast and lunch, study time, supervision and a powerful WIFI connection so they can connect digitally with their teachers at their individual schools,” said Pastor Ed Jones, of Trinity United Methodist Church.

Exact hours of the program have yet to be announced, but it’s believed kids will be able to attend from as early as 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Teams of screened, volunteers will supervise the kids and maintain social distancing and proper sanitizing for the children.

The big question is will those kids who can’t afford a laptop computer be provided with one. Without that, virtually connecting with their teachers will be impossible.

“For those children that can’t afford a computer or do not already have one, every kid that comes into our program will be provided with a computer to connect with their teachers, to be fully functioning in their school’s virtual program,” Jones said.

Recommendations for Establishing a Health and Safety Protocol in Your Learning Pod

From a health and safety perspective, creating or joining a learning pod is about mitigating COVID-19 risk, not eliminating it. The tradeoffs, of course, are the additional benefits related to your child(ren)’s experience in a learning pod.

From a resource blog that matches pods with teachers in major metro areas.

And it's worth posting again...

The "Pandemic Pods" group on Facebook 

The Pandemic Pods group is a treasure trove of resources, links, and plenty of discussion from all points of views, needs, and regions. The "group" discussion is well organized in a variety of categories including, Resources, Local Networks, Logistics, Educational Resources, Finding Teachers/Tutors, and Legal -- to name a few. The group has several admins to keep the crazies out and discussion helpful.



New York Times article on Pods

In recent weeks, many parents have realized the agonizing truth about school this fall: If it happens in person, it might not feel safe. And if it happens remotely, it will be inadequate, isolating and unable to provide the child care many working parents need. Desperate for a better solution, parents around the country have started organizing “pandemic pods,” or home schooling pods, for the fall, in which groups of three to 10 students learn together in homes under the tutelage of the children’s parents or a hired teacher.
NYT, 

Last edited by Neil MacQueen

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