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'Learning pods' catch on during the pandemic. Here's how one in Lexington works.

Lexington Herald-Leader - 9/15/2020

Sep. 15--Brianne Sherman of Lexington goes to work each day secure in the knowledge that her son, Logan, 6, is getting his non-traditional learning, or NTI, school work done along with some companionship in a new program borne out of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sherman, who is working at the horse sales at Keeneland, had just moved from California to Lexington and found that the Boys & Girls Club of the Bluegrass was going to have a learning pod at the Salvation Army.

Learning pods have also been called pandemic pods, according to the New York Times. They serve small groups of students who learn "together outside the classroom but still in person" and have come to fruition during the coronavirus outbreak, the newspaper reported.

Some pods, such as the one at the Salvation Army, have tutors to help with a child's virtual school curriculum.

"Being a single mom...I have to work full-time," Sherman said. "It's been a great program and they've really helped him a lot. He's gaining interaction with other kids. When they are so young, they don't want to be isolated. The ...tutors are there to help him."

Without the learning pod, Sherman said, she wouldn't have been able to work since Fayette County students have begun the school year learning from home.

"It would have been a really big struggle," she said.

Logan Sherman has virtual ZOOM meetings in the morning with his teachers and in the afternoon works on assignments at his own pace.

The first-grader said he looks forward to "break" time and "gym."

Major William Garrett, area coordinator for the Salvation Army, said the learning pod is a kind of an extension of a previous after school Boys & Girls Club program.

Garrett said students are learning in pods of 10, for a total of 40 in the program.

Garrett said the program has had no positive cases of COVID-19. Children wear facial masks and follow safety protocols to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The kids at the learning pod attend different schools in Fayette, Scott and Jessamine counties and are in different grades. Most of the children at the Salvation Army learning pod are in elementary school. A handful are in middle school. Some live in the community, some live in the shelter at the Salvation Army. Some have parents who work at the Salvation Army.

Children have breakfast, lunch and a snack at the learning pod and take dinner home.

"Every day we are trying to get better. I feel like it's a learning process," said Aaron Raymond, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of the Bluegrass at the Salvation Army.

Tutors are generally students from the University of Kentucky and Asbury University.

Saira Matthews, a tutor and graduate student in educational psychology at the University of Kentucky, said, "we help the students log in to their virtual schools. We make sure that they get all their work done. We help them with their homework, we help them with their classwork. We are their help."

"No one's ever done this before," she said. "It looks different for everyone. I wanted to be able to provide help for the kids who really needed it and the teachers who are trying to figure out how this technology works."

"I've always loved helping kids learn and supplemental education is important," Matthews said. "A teacher can only do so much in the classroom setting."


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