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August 18, 2020

My heart was elated (if there is such a thing in Covid times) to learn that a Southern California school superintendent is thinking out of the box and will start the district’s fall term tomorrow with in-person “classrooms.” But teachers will be absent.

Actually, the elementary school classrooms will be “technology pods” for remote learning. Superintendent Vivian Ekchian had the brainstorm last March when the pandemic forced school closures. It was then that she saw the need for childcare for essential workers and for parents who could not work from home or who have multiple children.

In compliance with Los Angeles County rules, Glendale Unified is not using empty classrooms for teaching during Covid, but for childcare: Only 12 students in a classroom – or pod -- supervised by a district staff member or a substitute teacher; desks will be six feet apart; drinking fountains will be repurposed as hand-washing stations; children will social distance and will have their own toys and equipment.

Those providing supervision will provide students with computer assistance. They will also make sure kids are wearing face masks. And they will make sure students are focusing on schoolwork.

As most schools opted out of in-person classes in favor of learning at home, I worried most for students without access to computers. Ms. Ekchian had that in mind, too.

With the help of some funding from the CARES Act, the Glendale school district has distributed computers to the students – each to have a computer at home and a computer at school “to limit cross contamination.”

As far as I’m concerned, Ms. Ekchian is performing an act of heroism as she ensures quality learning environments for children by way of technology pods.

Now, other school districts are reaching out to learn how they can do the same.

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