Public schools adopt learning pods to aid more students

With grape juice and Chex Mix at hand, and their little sister busy coloring nearby, Jenashia and Nevaeh Aponte settle down at a table with Sara Rubio, their “pod leader.”

It is late afternoon and the first floor of the McKenna Center – a renovated Victorian house located across the street from Central Falls High School in Rhode Island – is abuzz with teenagers chatting and catching up. But the sisters’ attention is squarely on Ms. Rubio: There are only four days left before teachers begin finalizing first-quarter grades, and the girls need her help.

Jenashia, a sophomore, pulls out a folder with her biology project, while her sister Nevaeh, a freshman, checks her grades online. Due to an illness in the family, she has missed the deadline to take her Algebra I portfolio exam. Her math teacher has just informed her that she will have to wait and take it next year.

Why We Wrote This

Learning pods provided an alternative to in-person schooling for families who could afford it during the pandemic. Some public schools are taking the idea and using it as a tool to support a wider group of students.

“What’s his name?” asks Ms. Rubio. “Text me the dates you were out.”

Ms. Rubio, a junior at the University of Rhode Island who attended elementary school in Central Falls, has already intervened once this quarter. She’d noticed that Nevaeh was missing a grade in her online grade book for a major science project that the teen said she had completed. At Ms. Rubio’s urging, Nevaeh went to her teacher and they unraveled the mystery: She actually had turned in the assignment but had forgotten to write her name on it.

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