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COVID-19 / Education / Funding / Nonprofits

These Wilmington neighborhood learning pods are getting $90K in CARES funds

The funds, which the Longwood Foundation will match, will go to a dozen organizations serving under-resourced kids.

Learning pod at Neighborhood House in Southbridge. (Courtesy photo)

“Learning pod” has been a buzzphrase of 2020, with schools on virtual or hybrid schedules and parents struggling to balance work and at-home education.

Often associated with well-off suburban parents, learning pods are small groups of kids — usually six to eight — who do their online schooling together with the help of a tutor, a concept that both helps parents go to work and keeps the children on academic track, if not ahead of the curve. In the model that started gaining traction in the summer, small groups of parents would pool money to hire tutors for virtual learning.

“It very quickly dawned on me that this was going to be a problem for our students who can’t afford to hire a tutor,” as Betsy Renzo, who’s running WAVE, a nonprofit with a mission of educational equity for distance learning, told Technical.ly in September. WAVE launched a free learning pod program for students who attend Kuumba Academy, Freire and Great Oaks in downtown Wilmington, as well as a work benefit program where companies such as Buccini Pollin Group offer learning pods to employees with school-aged children.

Now, the pods concept is growing in the city, this time with the help of the City, the United Way of Delaware and Wilmington Community Advisory Council. This week it was announced that $90,000 in CARES Act funds will be allocated to fund 12 organizations operating learning pods:

  • Latin American Community Center
  • Hilltop Lutheran Community Center’
  • Neighborhood House
  • Clarence Fraim Boys and Girls Club
  • H. Fletcher Brown Boys and Girls Club
  • West End Neighborhood House
  • The Center for Structural Equity
  • Kingswood Community Center
  • Youth Empowerment Program
  • Be Ready Jesus is Coming Church
  • Girls, Inc.
  • YMCA of Delaware

At some of the sites, the school districts have directly assigned para-professional staff as resources.

“With our City students unable to return to the classroom due to the virus, we’ve got to do all we can to keep them and their families engaged with their education so they don’t fall further behind, and one way to do that is to offer learning pods,” said Mayor Mike Purzycki, in a press release.

The Longwood Foundation will match the $90,000 from the City. The combined funds, according to United Way of Delaware President and CEO Michelle Taylor, will be used to purchase laptops, plexiglass partitions, PPE equipment, sanitizing supplies, and other safety and health products and services.

“We cannot allow the children of Wilmington to fall behind in their studies because of COVID,” Taylor said. “Standing up learning pods is a critical part of that work. This partnership with the City of Wilmington, and the support we’ve received from the Longwood Foundation, will make learning pods safer and more accessible than would otherwise be possible. No one knows when the pandemic will end. But we do know that we can’t wait for that to happen before making learning pods an option for Wilmington families.”

If you’re a parent interested in Wilmington’s learning pods, dial 211, then press 4.

Companies: City of Wilmington / United Way of Central Maryland

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