NEWARK, NJ — No parent should have to choose between going to work or making sure their kids have child care. But that’s the crushing dilemma many essential employees in Newark are facing amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Brick Education Network (BEN).
As parents in Newark grapple with the switch to all-remote learning, many are finding themselves struggling to find someone to look after their kids while they attend class online. In an effort to take some of the pressure off, BEN – which operates four charter schools in Newark – has launched a solution it says is unique in the Brick City: free learning pods.
Located at Marion P. Thomas Charter School HS of Culinary and Performing Arts, the pods provide a vital service for parents with kids enrolled at BEN schools. Each pod can accommodate up to 12 socially distanced students, giving them a safe place to learn and play while their parents are on the job.
They’re similar to other learning pods that are popping up in suburbs throughout New Jersey, with one notable exception, school officials said – they’re free. It’s a big deal in a community where many low-income families of color can’t afford to send their kids to expensive, private facilities.
Following social distancing and COVID-19 safety protocols, the pods can fit up to 225 students in all. There, they can take part in virtual classes and complete their assignments, all while supervised by a teacher and social worker.
“Things have been going very well thus far,” interim chief school administrator Chaleeta Hines recently told Patch.
“Our staff has really stepped up to ensure that daily health screenings are successfully conducted, including temperature checks and symptom screening for all staff and students before they arrive,” Hines said.
To date, nobody has had to be kept from entering the building, Hines said last week.
The BEN is hosting a Virtual Learning Center Open House at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 24. Parents can register here or contact [email protected] for more information.
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This article originally appeared on the Newark Patch