Even with the realities and necessary limitations due to the pandemic, now is a time that our children need more support — and not less — given their social-emotional and academic development needs. As the school year has begun with schools closed and students relegated once again to “virtual” instruction delivered to their homes, it is important to note that this is not enough. The reality is that our children need more during this unprecedented crisis rather than the limited engagement provided by what is delivered and understood over a Chromebook.
To quote a Wall Street Journal article dated August 15: “Remote work has been a success for American corporations while remote learning has been a slow-motion disaster for children and parents.” The article notes that these corporate parents who work at home have the “availability” to support their children during the school day or pay for rising childcare centers or similar opportunities to fill the gaps in virtual instruction. But what about the growing number of poor and minimum wage parents who must actually “go” to work and cannot afford childcare or additional academic support?
As the Los Angeles Times noted in their July 25 article “With Schools Closed, Learning Pods Take Sprout,” they rightfully state that these academic support pods are only available to families who have the economic means to pay for a tutor or teacher to come to their home and offset the learning loss that is endemic to virtual instruction. In their follow-up editorial on July 29, they state, “The inequalities that have long plagued traditional public schools were multiplied during the emergency shutdown” and “before long, the ‘pod’ children might be a semester or even a full year ahead of others.”
At the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Los Angeles Harbor, we are making a commitment to the “others” with daily in-person academic and social-emotional development support from 8 a.m.–6 p.m. at our seven traditional Club locations while our 12 school sites are closed. Through a great collaboration with Local District South Superintendent Michael Romero and Community of Schools Directors Lou Mardesich (San Pedro), David Kooper (Wilmington), and Terry Ball (Harbor City/Lomita), we have engaged in a partnership to provide 500 elementary and middle school students with full-day engagement including virtual programming support during the scheduled morning hours and a full afternoon of enrichment programming for a well-rounded day. We have implemented all of the COVID-19-related safety protocols at each of these seven sites (which limits us to 500 youth). With LAUSD support, we provide three meals and a snack each day, and we have made this all free so that “those who need us most” can participate and compete with the “pod kids.” Our pods are 10-1 or less and with training provided by Superintendent Romero and his leadership team, we are supporting the needs of these youth with the daily engagement they desperately require. In addition, we are engaging another 750–1,000 high school students with much-needed college pathway support via our most successful College Bound program, both virtually and through direct appointments.
Yes, we realize that even with all of our safety protocols and heavy investment in the materials and services needed to fully facilitate those safety measures, we too may succumb to the virus and have to temporarily close the doors to one or more of these sites. But we cannot just stand by and allow the “others” to fall further behind — neither academically nor socially and emotionally. We are providing these important youth the environment to learn and continue to develop their full being rather than being relegated to staying home for another year with that limited reality. And in all honesty, the 1,250 or so students we are sponsoring each day/week is not enough; we need others to step up and provide the same. So, who is willing? Who else will provide our youth with more than just a limited virtual school year? Will you? spt