▶️ Facebook group looks to connect parents and kids with ‘learning pods’

By ANYSSA BOHANAN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

Socialization, connection, in-person learning, just a few of the reasons parents are reaching out to educators and other families to create learning pods.

“I think everybody who’s a parent is just trying to figure out, ‘What the heck are we going to do?’ right now,” Shannon Sbarra, owner of Volcano Veggies said.

As a small business owner and mother of two, Shannon Sbarra knows just how difficult social distanced learning can be.

“When everything shut down, I got really busy,” said Sbarra. “I was so busy that I had a really hard time helping my second grader with school and he ended up watching a lot of TV and it didn’t feel good.”

Sbarra created a Facebook group to try and connect with other parents looking for an alternative to distanced learning.

“For the upcoming school year I just really wanted to have a better plan in place,” Sbarra said.

“What I worry and am concerned about, are moms with special needs children,” said Bend resident Sierra Versaggi. “For a special needs child there’s a lot of parents out there that really rely on support.”

Versaggi says it’s the social aspect of learning pods would help benefit her son, who is on the spectrum.

“Being able to learn with other kids, I think that’s really important for him. And for most children!” Versaggi said.

Learning pods won’t all look the same.

“Some parents are going to hire a teacher, some parents are going to do more of a co-op,” said Sbarra. “Some parents are just looking for a little bit of extra socialization.”

“I was hoping for this particular option to try to do it primarily outdoors and try to do it with 6-8 children, as well as having a couple hours a day where we’re working on their online curriculum,” educator Laura Bergner said.

While learning pods sound great in theory, one of the biggest issues for some parents is cost.

“If you’re hiring a private tutor, your kid might be getting sort of benefit,” said Bergner. “I think we’re going to end up with some real challenges for which kids are going to be left behind.”

Sbarra says the group is shifting to ensure that all children have the opportunity to learn this way.

“Sometimes I think, if I have these problems and I have plenty of advantages, I can’t imagine what someone else is going through that doesn’t have the resources that I have,” Sbarra said.

Sbarra says they’re working with organizations and are hoping to begin fundraising to help families pay for to be a part of a learning pod if they’d like to but can’t afford to.

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