At Community of Faith Assembly in Slavic Village, Constance Dunson, known as Miss Ann, helps run a parent-child reading program and oversees several academic learning pods. It’s part of a cooperative among Greater Cleveland nonprofits such as United Way of Greater Cleveland and the Cleveland Foundation, in partnership with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.
Every school day, students in kindergarten through eighth grade, along with some high school siblings, arrive at the church, ready to learn with their school-issued Chromebooks, masks to prevent disease spread and a desire for social interaction beyond playing with brothers and sisters at home.
There are usually nine students per pod, and always the same names and faces to create safe social groups amid the pandemic. Currently, about 800 students are enrolled in CMSD academic learning pods at 26 sites throughout Cleveland that are operated or supported by out-of-schooltime providers such as Cleveland Play House and various churches. Since these providers were already connected to the founding organizations and schools, a quick start-up was possible to launch pods by Sept. 14.
“We set up a school setting in our fellowship hall and one classroom in the church,” says Dunson.
Students eat breakfast and lunch there while getting academic and social-emotional support. Dunson takes students temperatures when they arrive by 8:30 a.m. Because of the Montessori-style mixed-age pods, lessons occur at different times. So, she juggles, moving about with other pod managers in the building, and serving as a consistent, supportive and caring adult. Teachers text her throughout the day to check in. Parents, many of them essential workers, are grateful to know their children are in a place where they can learn and grow.
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