By LILY TINOCO | Reporter
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner announced on July 13 that schools would remain closed at the start of the 2020-21 school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting a demand for learning pods and tutoring services across Pacific Palisades.
Within hours of the district’s announcement, parents took to the internet in search of a retired teacher, homeschool teacher or qualified professional—somebody to take on the role as an at-home teacher for their child, or groups of children.
Palisadian Sahel Amani has been working with a small pre-K learning pod herself, made up of a group of five to 10 kids.
“The same group has been together since the start, and we do not gather if anyone has a fever or any symptoms,” Amani said to the Palisadian-Post. “We have very open and honest communication between the moms and that helps … the idea is to allow our toddlers to be toddlers, and run and play and grow and learn through social play.
“My goal since the start of this has been to keep this community connected even through distancing, to keep some sense of normalcy for our children and for the community.”
The demand for these cohorts is a result of parents who have not had much success with the past few months of distance learning, as well as parents who simply want the help.
Palisadian Sara Marti explained that when her mother offered to help pay for a tutor or alternative learning methods for the upcoming school year for her son who will be entering fifth grade, she took to Nextdoor and reached out to other parents who were interested in doing the same.
Marti, who is in the third trimester of her pregnancy, anticipates the need for extra help as she will have a newborn on her hands.
“A tutor is going to help us with his actual public school distance learning, just a couple of hours a week to review things he’s learning and maybe expand on some stuff because … I don’t want him to fall behind,” Marti said.
Marquez Charter Elementary School kindergarten teacher Lindy Bazan explained how younger kids may definitely need the assistance.
“It’s challenging, especially when they have little ones,” Bazan explained. “Our youngest kids—the kindergarteners and first graders—really do need support to log into a Zoom session or into a learning app, and they need a little bit of supervision. You can’t just throw them on a Zoom and expect that they’re going to be OK with their classroom teacher because the classroom teacher could have 20 kids on Zoom at one time.
“I always support the parents in our community to do what they are able to do to make it the best possible situation for their children.”
UCLA public health expert and epidemiology professor Timothy Brewer said parents need to be honest about their children’s health and to not participate in any activities if they feel sick in any capacity if they are going to join a learning pod.
“We all know parents who have sent their children to school or daycare when their child has had a sore throat or low-grade fever … you really can’t do that in the current environment right now,” Brewer said. “It really depends on parents being honest if their child has a sore throat, runny nose … not letting that child interact with others outside of the house.”
Brewer said conceptually, there’s no reason that it shouldn’t work so long as children are not already infected and do not participate in activities that might expose them to COVID-19 outside of the learning pod.
However, education officials still seem to advise otherwise.
Margo Minecki, public information officer for the Los Angeles County of Education, said the COE appreciates that parents are seeking additional support for their children during distance learning, but urges families to continue following physical distancing measures directed by LA County Public Health.
“In-person ‘pods’ do not align with current Public Health directives against gatherings with people who are not part of your household, crowding and confined spaces,” Minecki said in an email statement to the Post. “If everyone follows the Public Health directives, we help slow the spread of COVID-19 and have a better chance of reopening schools sooner.”
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