BY: GENEVIEVE SHAW BROWN
(WASHINGTON) — If there’s one conversation dominating parent groups right now — online, in person or in a rapid flurry of group texts — it’s this: What will the upcoming school year look like?
There’s the possibility of a full return. There’s the possibility of a full return but with kids in smaller “pods.” There’s potentially a part-time return where kids attend school a few days a week. There’s also the no-return, where all schooling takes place via remote learning or via a homeschooled curriculum.
And as families inch toward September and with almost zero information, a growing subset of parents are taking education into their own hands.
Take Helene Alonso, a full-time working mom of two who’s hoping to create a school for the kids in her building, including her pre-K and second grader for whom she said distance learning “did not go well.”
The spring, she said, was about “just trying to survive.” But that’s not going to cut it for the upcoming year.
“We have a diverse group of parents and kids,” Alonso told “GMA” of the families in her Harlem apartment building, “with a rainbow of concerns.” The building does have a courtyard and a community room that the residents — all homeowners — are able to use.
“So I was thinking, what if we could get a sports teacher to teach the kids in the courtyard while kids are learning in small groups or one-to-one with a teacher in the community room as the classroom,” she said. “They can run around supervised and learn. But most importantly they would have social interaction.”
Her biggest obstacle, she said, is getting the building management to agree to using the space in those ways.
It’s a service teachers are willing to provide and one many for which people are searching. Care.com reports an increase in families searching for caregivers who have experience as a teacher, early childhood educator or tutor. And companies that have always offered small-group enrichment are now inundated with requests for in-home teaching.
Rina Collins, the owner of Book Nook Enrichment in New York City, offered small-group literacy programs prior to the pandemic. Now, she’s fielding inquiries from parents looking for teachers to come to their homes.
“Those with kids in kindergarten through second grade are looking for academic teachers, while those with kids 2 to 5 are looking to fill up a schedule” with art, yoga and more, she told “GMA.”
Her clients are considering not returning to school — even if it does open — for a variety of reasons, she said, adding, “Someone might be immunocompromised, or it may just be the school schedule now doesn’t fit their needs.”
The most popular request, she said, is for one-to-one tutoring and small-group learning. In one case, she said, she has a mom who has formed a group of five looking for a teacher for that group only.
It’s a scenario Karin Golden has set up for her own preschooler and a group of friends. When the pandemic hit and her preschooler’s Spanish-language immersion program went virtual, Golden and the other parents in her group — all friends — decided they would host their own school if things did not resume as normal in the fall. And the closer the fall gets, the better Golden feels about having a plan in place for her daughter — at least for two days each week.
“We are friends with the families and trust them,” she said. They have hired the teacher who taught the kids in their immersion program and an assistant teacher. Golden’s even just started a company, Colores, to help other parents do the same. Classes will be held outdoors for as long as weather allows, and then move between homes every two months.
“If her regular preschool opens, great, she’ll go there too,” Golden said. “But I’m glad to tell her that no matter what, she will get to go to Spanish school.”
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