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Learning Pods At Local Libraries Providing Help to Parents

By Tyronda James

Phyllis Wheatley Community Library

There is a new program here for the city families in hopes of easing the woes of working parents with school-age students.

The ROC City Learning Pods was launched for Rochester children ages 4 to 12, who will be supervised by experienced teaching assistants and paraprofessionals supporting distance learning as a result of the pandemic.

“Parents found themselves having to choose between working and staying home to help teach their kids. Remote learning instantly became an equity issue,” said Brittany Rumph, Project director of ROC City Learning Pods.

“Not every family can afford to pay for educators to support their children during a remote learning day and it was up to us to create something quickly.”

Rumph, who is also lead founder of Rochester Excellence Academy charter school said they knew they had to do something when the pandemic closed schools, making remote learning tough for many families. 

The free program first began at the Phillis Wheatley Library and Lincoln Library to 24 city students enrolled in the Rochester City School District, parochial or charter schools. The primary idea is to assist the children of parents who work and cannot be home to supervise their children’s remote learning.

The program runs weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and breakfast, lunch and a snack are provided daily by Foodlink and will follow all COVID-19 pandemic safety protocols. Students and staff will complete daily health assessments upon entry, wear masks, and bring their own technology devices.

It will consist of learning clusters of 12 students.  The staff of teaching assistants and paraprofessionals hired are those laid off from RCSD as their cost-cutting effort.

“We know that the teaching assistants and paraprofessionals are the glue of many classrooms because they develop meaningful relationships with their students and provide one-on-one support during the school day,” said Maya Crane, program officer for equity at the Community Foundation. 

“These jobs provide an opportunity to use their experience and expertise to help children get the most out of their remote learning.”

The no-cost program is thanks to a $55,000 grant from Rochester Area Community Foundation, a grant from a recently established Racial Equity Growth Fund

Two additional pods will open at the Charlotte and Lyell libraries in mid-November. There are plans to offer the program in other city areas and spaces, like local churches, to help a total of 108 students.

Rumph and others focused on finding funding as well as safe, supportive and easily accessible spaces for children to learn — and the Rochester Public Libraries were ideal locations because they have adequate space and furnishings in their community meeting rooms and access to stable WiFi.

Tolley Reeves, assistant director of the Rochester Public Library said he hopes the Learning Pods will help the city branches develop long-term relationships with families, turn youngsters into lifelong learners and make families aware of all the resources available at the libraries.

“It is a perfect opportunity. Why not use our space for the community, our families, and the kids?” said Reeves.