With the pandemic still raging, many schools across the country are opting not to reopen full-time, leaving many parents, especially working parents, struggling with how to provide their children with enough academic support and social interaction to make up for not physically being in school. This has led some parents — especially affluent, white parents — to turn to a "pod"-style model to support kids' learning at home. But some scholars and educators argue that learning pods — especially if they involve paid teachers or pulling kids out of public school — will further segregate public education and reduce resources for low-income students and students of color, who will disproportionately be left out of learning pods. Jessica Calarco, a sociology professor at Indiana University, says there are other equitable alternatives. Parents face three major issues when students go online, Calarco says: lack of hands-on instructional support, lack of childcare during the workday, and lack of social interaction for their kids. To avoid worsening inequalities in schools, these problems need to be tackled separately. Calarco urges parents who are considering forming private learning pods to redirect their efforts toward lobbying public officials for more public-school funding to provide a lower teacher/student ratio for online or in-person instruction. She says parents might also consider pressuring state and local leaders to delay the start of this school year, leaving time for federal funding to come through Congress and time for districts to hire and train the teachers they'll need to o staff small classes for online or in-person instruction. Even if classes are online, this still leaves the issue of childcare, especially for parents who work full-time. Calarco suggests childcare co-ops instead of private learning pods. Parents could keep their kids enrolled in public online or hybrid schooling, joining groups of two to five families to trade off watching the kids on the days they're learning from home. Childcare co-ops are more equitable than private learning pods, in Calarco’s view. They would keep kids enrolled in public school and keep parents from hiring away teachers that public schools desperately need. At this point, Calarco says, shutting everything down and keeping everyone home for a month might get us to a stage where it's safe to reopen schools. And that, especially with small classes and fairly paid teachers, would be the most equitable solution of all.
In other news, finding a new home can be an exhausting and frustrating endeavor, especially if you are an endangered bat whose home was displaced due to an airport expansion. Researchers and students at the Center for Earth and Environmental Science at IUPUI have been working with the Indiana State University Center for Bat Research, Outreach, and Conservation to help create a landscape suitable for the endangered Indiana bat to live. Because a thriving bat habitat depends on healthy and abundant trees, researchers believe that planting and protecting native trees from invasive plants, such as honeysuckle, might be the best hope for the future of the bats. Consequently, researchers have been trying to manage urban forests to increase bat populations. When forests used by Indiana bats were destroyed to make room for a runway expansion at the Indianapolis Airport, other land, now known as Sodalis Park, was set aside to create new bat habitat. Unfortunately, in some sections of the park, the forest understory has been taken over by an invasive species - bush honeysuckle. So, during the fall and winter, IUPUI students work to improve bat habitat at the park by removing the invasive shrub. Researchers said creating more roosting habitats, or summer housing for bats, is not only beneficial for the bat named after the state — other species reap the benefits as well. While this may seem like a lot of work for a bat, researchers said the wing-fingered creatures do a great service for communities by eating bugs that might otherwise devour food staples and feasting on mosquitoes. In fact, Indiana bats can eat the equivalent of their weight in insects in a single night. While many measures have been made to save the bats, researchers said the best hope for a thriving Indiana bat population — especially around the airport — is to plant and protect native trees.