Launchpods nonprofit offers Durham students social remote learning

A nonprofit is working to help Durham students who are struggling to learn from home during the pandemic.

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Debra Morgan, anchor/reporter,
Rick Armstrong, photojournalist
DURHAM, N.C. — A nonprofit is working to help Durham students who are struggling to learn from home during the pandemic.
North Carolina State University graduate, tutor and remote working expert Britni Jones started the "Launchpods" venture to help motivate students who have fallen behind due to the pandemic and are having to participate in virtual classes from home.

Jones has secured space for in-person learning hubs to help children "go to another level" and "really excel," she said. The concept brings groups or "pods" of six to seven students together in a safe and distraction-free learning environment.

Five days a week, the students are dropped off between 8 and 9 a.m. at the learning hub. Then they stay on a typical school schedule of activities and learning, including lunch time and free time, a daily life skills lesson and nature walks.

When the pods launch, Jones plans to limit the program to middle and high school-age students but hopes to expand it to K-5 students in the future.

The program is available to Durham Public Schools students who want to continue their remote curriculum and at the same time have social contact with other students. The pods program features homework help and professional tutors who work directly with Durham teachers.

Jones says the plan helps students be around others rather than in the daily isolation of their home learning space.

"Most students are really really missing that social interaction," she said, adding that she believes in positive social connections. "It’s like I want positive people around me so that I can excel and be a better person," said Jones.

Jones said she believes many students need special support to help them excel. She said that may involve group discussions, which the pods make possible.

"Thirty minutes a day, let’s talk about some life skills, you know? How do you set a goal? How do you decide what goal to set?"

Jones said she believes her concept is not dependent upon school shutdowns.

"I definitely believe that this solution will be helpful after the pandemic," she said. "This is a labor of love for the community and ultimately for the students."

Jones said she hopes to begin the first student pod groups within 30 days as families sign up for the service.

The Launchpods website explains the programs pricing as, "We believe that every student deserves the opportunity to join a pod – nationwide. We provide fair pricing and discounts for families with multiple students. We look forward to creating small, safe pods that reflect the rich diversity of our city and are committed to realizing that vision."


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