By: Zachary S. Sielicky

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned a lot of people on their heads in several ways. The two biggest challenges employers and employees have faced are the economy and education. It has brought the viability of what has long been accepted as the proper schooling format into question, being that social distancing rules can hardly apply in the conventional school setup.

Most families in our community took to homeschooling as a means of keeping up with the school curriculum. This worked for quite some time because most parents were home due to the movement restrictions, and offered the necessary guidance required by their kids. This was all done with the premise that schools will soon reopen, and children would return to schools.

The reopening of the state and county means that most of us are heading back to work, at a time that schools have also announced their intention to embrace remote learning fully. This has, in turn, created a gap since the parents who would have ensured the smooth running of these programs are no longer around to oversee and guide it. Thus, there has been a major scramble for caregivers, as captured by childcare services inquiries that have more than tripled.

Here are a few questions that parents are asking themselves.

Is Hiring Tutors the Way to Go?

A few parents have opted to hire teachers to come and tutor their children in their homes, given most teachers are not required to report to the schools in person anyway. This is a relatively safe approach since it ensures the kids remain in the house, and it is much easier to implement safety measures that are agreed upon by the parent and teacher. The only problem is the demand for tutors has shot up. In some cases, the highest bidder wins their services, which are now charged a premium due to the demand.

It raises a grave concern on the learning disparities that may arise among families in our community. Not all families have extra resources to dedicate to this form of learning. Those who can afford it for their children will, without a doubt, put the kids on a higher pedestal educationally than those who cannot. When schools resume or when testing happens, the disparity is very likely to show in the results of the students who can access to this form of teaching and who did not.

What Then Happens to The Children in the Under-Served Communities?

Being the ever-innovative community that we are in Salem, parents are coming up with creative ways to bridge this apparent gap in education delivery by organizing learning pods for their children. Families with children in the same age group and the same locale are teaming up and organizing a central learning place for the children, forming a micro-school. The pods cannot be overpopulated, of course, but they have manageable numbers with strict adherence to social distancing rules.

The tutors’ costs are shared, and this approach eases the strain of otherwise hiring a tutor per household. It also ensures better distribution of caregivers who would otherwise have so much in their hands serving our community. Several college students are also taking advantage of this to make some extra cash of their own, given most of their classes are remote and flexible.

We hope the county will step in and give clear direction on educational services’ dispensation with this new approach.

The author Zachary Sielicky is the Membership Manager for the Salem Chamber of Commerce. Zachary advises businesses in the Mid-Willamette Valley on how to connect with the community and fellow businesses. The Salem Chamber is a Convener of leaders, a Catalyst for positive change, and a Champion for a thriving community. Are you a business leader? Find out what kind HERE.

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