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Episode 64: Gateway City parents are building homeschool pods too

Gateways

News & Politics

8/12/20-- This week on Gateways, Ben checks in with state Rep. Andy Vargas on the unorthodox end of the legislative session. With the deadline for major policymaking extended from July 31 through the end of the year, Rep. Vargas provides a look back on the session thus far and what’s on the horizon. A police reform bill has not yet been passed, but with the elements currently in conference committees, Vargas is optimistic that it will be resolved soon and is pleased with how it came together. “There’s a commitment from both chambers and the governor to get something done,” he says. Vargas would also like to see an amendment expanding expungement opportunities in the final version of the bill. “If not, we’ll certainly be fighting next session.” One opportunity that Vargas urges school districts not to miss is a federal school nutrition program. The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) provides universal free breakfast and lunch to every student in school districts in low-income areas. Vargas says it’s been a “huge success” in the city of Haverhill where it was implemented. As Ben points out, 97% of Gateway City students attend schools where over 40% of the students are economically disadvantaged. “So basically, every Gateway City student could benefit from this,” Ben says. The deadline to apply for CEP is August 31. --- As school districts across the commonwealth develop and announce reopening plans, parents are grappling with a whole host of anxieties. Some of these stem from what’s been described as a lack of sufficient communication. Two leaders at Massachusetts Parents United, Keri Rodrigues and Natasha Megie-Maddrey, join us to talk about this. Rodrigues, the founder of Massachusetts Parents United and the president of National Parents Union, says that while school districts have held virtual meetings between faculty and parents, “Whether or not they’ve been listening is a horse of a different color.” Some school districts have announced an all-remote start to the school year, which requires a lot of effort on the part of parents, who are turning to fellow community members to form their own systems or “microschools,” wherein families come together, coordinate their schedules, and pool their resources. This form of schooling is getting broader attention now, but “microschools” and “homeschool pods” are nothing new, Rodrigues says. “I know that that’s the fancy way that rich white folks are now calling these things, but this has been what poor Black and brown folks have done forever.” Massachusetts Parents United is encouraging these co-ops by providing $200,000 worth of direct grants to parents and families. In building these community homeschool pods, families are taking the opportunity to customize their childrens’ learning. Grant applications have expressed a desire to adhere to the district’s curriculum but also provide a supplemental Afro-centric curriculum, Latino cultural lessons, Spanish lessons, or music lessons. Others have asked for money to pay for desks or sensory toys, or to hire a special education paraprofessional. The deadline for applications is August 15.


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