This article discusses how pandemic pods risk exacerbating school inequality. One of their recommendations is to contribute to "mutual aid funds or scholarships for parents who need educational or child care support." When we discovered that there currently is no such fund for families in Washington DC, we created this to fill that need.
Wealthy families in the DC region have been madly scrambling to form learning pods, an arrangement in which a few families come together and either hire private teachers for their children or share childcare responsibilities. Much has been written about how this will create a shadow private school system, leaving many of the city's most vulnerable students without comparable resources and likely to fall behind academically.
As wealthy families form pods, many children are being excluded. Families tend to pod with other families in their neighborhood. In this highly segregated city, this means that predominantly white neighborhoods will have far more pod opportunities than predominantly Black and Brown neighborhoods. Additionally, many families forming pods have "risk requirements" that would exclude the children of essential workers, who are disproportionately BIPOC. As with other aspects of this pandemic, this podding trend will hurt Black and Brown communities much more deeply than white ones.
While the answer to this is a massive systemic shift within both schools and workplaces to accommodate this new reality for families, these institutions are generally slow-moving, non-innovative and non-responsive to the needs of lower-resourced populations. What is needed from the school system is a redeployment of resources, space and personnel to the most vulnerable students, with teachers assigned to the equivalent of small learning pods. What is needed from workplaces are shortened hours without reduced pay to allow parents to attend to the academic and social-emotional needs of their children.
In the meantime, there are wealthy kids spread throughout Northwest DC with their quarantined pods and private teachers. This campaign aims to address the inherent inequity of this by funding a comparable learning pod for students whose families lack the resources to do so on their own. These children can then experience what all children deserve - a rich educational experience and physical safety.
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