seek

Families Priced Out of ‘Learning Pods’ Seek Alternatives

Shy Rodriguez with her sons, Shawn Pagan, 11, left, and Jaiden Pagan, 8, at their home in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., on July 31, 2020. (Hannah Yoon/The New York Times)
Shy Rodriguez with her sons, Shawn Pagan, 11, left, and Jaiden Pagan, 8, at their home in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., on July 31, 2020. (Hannah Yoon/The New York Times)

WASHINGTON — When Shy Rodriguez heard about one of the hottest trends in education during the pandemic — “learning pods,” where parents hire teachers for small-group, in-home instruction — she knew immediately it was something she could never afford for her sons.

Like many parents, Rodriguez, a single mother and nursing assistant in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, was deeply dissatisfied with the online instruction her school district provided last spring. Facing more of the same this fall — her district is offering an in-person option for now, but she is not comfortable sending her boys — she set out to create a more basic and affordable type of pod: one where parents take turns with child care duties so they can go to work

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Public colleges hide donors who seek to influence students. Will COVID-19 make it worse?

Long before the coronavirus hit the United States, cash-strapped public higher education systems looked to private donors to offset the steady decline in public funding, sometimes with significant secrecy and strings attached.

Critics fear the economic downturn could give donors more leverage to quietly influence curriculum, hiring and scholarships. Open government laws in many states already allow donors to demand that the public – including students and faculty – be kept in the dark.

The pandemic has presented universities a triple whammy: Reduced tax revenues slashing government support, online-only courses gutting dormitory and cafeteria revenues, and – with more students and families out of work – less ability to offset that loss with tuition increases.

“They are going to be desperate for funding,” said Douglas Beets, who teaches accounting at Wake Forest University, and has studied nearly two decades of university donations and donor demands.

Linda Durant, vice president of

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Who decides when schools close if students, staff contract coronavirus or cases spike locally? Superintendents seek guidance from state

While the state’s plan to leave some school reopening details in the hands of individual districts allows for greater flexibility, it also could leave school administrators having to make tough decisions about how and when to close school buildings if students or staff contract the coronavirus or an individual community becomes immersed in an outbreak.

A number of districts say they want more guidance from the state on how to respond to confirmed infections or spikes in COVID-19 in the wider community. Districts plan to work with local health officials on contract tracing and say they’ll likely send home cohorts of students or close individual schools, but they have not developed benchmarks for those actions, or for opening things back up.

Gov. Ned Lamont Wednesday said the state would “have a strong recommendation that you close those schools” if the rate of positive coronavirus tests reached 10%, but stopped short

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Liftoff! NASA’s Perseverance rover begins odyssey to seek out traces of life on Mars

With the fiery flash of a rocket launch, NASA’s Perseverance rover headed out today for what’s expected to be a decade-long campaign to store up and bring back Martian samples that may hold evidence of alien life.

United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 7:50 a.m. ET (4:50 a.m. PT), sending the rover into space for a seven-month cruise to Mars.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, access to the area surrounding the launch pad was restricted, but hundreds of thousands of people watched the liftoff via streaming video. And as if the pandemic wasn’t enough of a challenge, in the minutes before launch, a magnitude-4.2 earthquake rattled through NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., where the rover mission is managed.

Mission managers said the complications had no effect on the countdown.

“This is all about perseverance,” NASA Administrator Jim

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Scientists seek to replicate the sun’s fusion power here on Earth

What if scientists could harness the extraordinarily powerful process that fuels the sun to generate clean energy here on Earth? In a potentially historic milestone, they are taking a step towards just such a future today.

At a ceremony Tuesday morning in southern France, a 35-country consortium officially began the assembly phase of a megaproject known as ITER — the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. Once assembly is complete, about four and a half years from now, it will be the world’s first industrial-scale fusion device. If successful, it promises to pave the way for virtually limitless, waste-free energy. 

Fusion is the process that powers stars like the sun, which can be thought of as a gigantic fusion reactor. When two atomic nuclei combine, or fuse, to form a heavier nucleus, energy is released. However, here on Earth, fusion as a form of power generation remains largely theoretical. While scientists have

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desperate parents seek private help as virtual school year looms

<span>Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images

Elyssa Katz, a Santa Monica mother of three, is growing a matchmaking service to connect families with tutors, or “Zutors”, as she calls them – a word she’s in the process of trademarking.

“The role of a Zutor is a tutor, a nanny, and an angel for a parent,” Katz told the Guardian, someone who can take over parental demands, help children with online homework and take them outside when it’s time for “recess”.

Katz’s clients range from the rich and famous, to everyday people who need childcare because they can’t look after their children while they have to work. Katz said she had gotten calls from parents as far away as the Hamptons.

For a matchmaking fee that can range from $700 to $1,000 (£549 to £785), Katz and her team will interview tutor candidates, run background and reference checks, then match them to the

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