Learning Pods and Hubs

LEARNING PODS AND HUBS: There’s been a lot of news in the press about learning pods and hubs. Pods are the spontaneous creation of mostly middle class parents to address the weaknesses of the remote learning programs. Families get together, and, for as much as $2000 a child, they form clusters of ten or so children, with tutors and unemployed teachers to assist and coordinate the children’s learning. It’s sort of a grass roots movement, but of primarily privileged families.

San Francisco is allegedly forming learning hubs at various libraries and recreation centers, for low-income students without access to internet or study space at home, staffed by city personnel and various nonprofits. They claim to have space for 6000 students, “by invitation only,” whatever that means. This approach sounds promising, though the school district isn’t involved, and the pictures in the paper do not reflect proper social distancing. There are 30,000 students in San Francisco eligible for free/ reduced-price lunch.

Another model I’d like to see implemented in Oakland would be based on the pod concept but generously funded by the district and the funding community. The pods could be based at each school in the sense that they could be made up of half the children (about ten) who would be assigned to a classroom. The teacher could coordinate the academic side of the process, while a parent or community person would be hired to work out the logistics. For instance, public housing has common spaces that could be cleaned and used. These pods would be administratively school based, with the principal responsible for overall coordination. Or, there could be other models, based on where people live or who their friends are. The expenses over and above the teacher’s salary would be approximately $2000 per student for the year, or $20,000 for a pod of ten students. To take such a program to scale to cover the 40,000 students in the free/reduced-price lunch category in Oakland would cost 80 million, but if you excluded high school (12,000 students) you could reduce it to 56 million. Since there’s a chance that there will be a vaccine, we could fund the program on a three-month basis, so the initial cost would be 18 million. That’s a lot of money, but no one said equity would be cheap.

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