Tackling Education Inequities in the Time of COVID-19

Tackling Education Inequities in the Time of COVID-19

Usually, September means that the children and youth in our community are packing up their backpacks for the start of a new school year. This fall, back to school – like so many other aspects of our lives – will look a bit different as we continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

In August, Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced that Boston Public Schools will begin the school year on September 21 st with remote learning. This decision was made to preserve the safety of students, teachers and staff, but it also creates very real challenges for families. Many working parents and caretakers, especially those in the service industry, can’t work from home and provide one-on-one academic support to their children during and after school hours.

To address this challenge and promote equitable learning among low-income residents, IBA is working to develop supportive community learning pods for children who live in our affordable housing units. Community learning pods are small groups of 10-13 students organized together by age or grade level. Students meet with a teacher in a community setting to remotely follow their classroom lessons, engage in independent work, participate in joint enrichment activities, and learn together outside of the school building. These pods will provide academic and social-emotional support to students in a caring and safe environment, helping prevent learning deficits that could otherwise result from independent remote learning. Additionally, our creation of these pods will provide parents and caretakers peace of mind in knowing that their children’s learning will continue in a supervised manner, while also allowing them to continue working.

Creating these community learning pods comes with numerous spatial, programmatic, and logistical challenges that must be addressed within a short timeline. Initially, we must assess the needs of our community, hire and train certified staff, and find spaces for the learning pods in our community that fit physical distancing guidelines. Once we have the logistics established, we must create a curriculum, lessons, and activities that enrich learning and provide social-emotional support. At the same time – and perhaps most urgently – we must raise the funds necessary to provide our students and families with this crucial support system.

For years, IBA has partnered with other great community-based organizations to collaboratively serve low-income children in IBA’s Villa Victoria community and surrounding neighborhoods. However, this unprecedented moment in history requires new levels of innovation and collaboration. We believe that this is the time for us to step up, tap into our creativity and entrepreneurial spirit, and create opportunities for our children that are equitable and culturally appropriate. Now more than ever, we need Boston’s philanthropic community to join with us in addressing this enormous challenge and opportunity.

We are proud to be working to develop housing and learning opportunities for low-income households in Boston.

For more information on how you can support IBA and our community learning pods, please contact Rachel Madariaga at, or visit our page: