Coronavirus: Parents form ‘pandemic pods’ to teach kids

Parents desperate for other options, education consultant says

Homeschooling (KPRC)

With coronavirus resurging across the country and so much uncertainty about what school looks like this fall, many parents are now taking matters into their own hands

Some children will go to physical classrooms, but some parents are forming what are being called “pandemic pods.”

Those who can afford it are hiring tutors or retired teachers for small, private classes, CNN's Laura Jarrett reports.

Marnie Weinstein, an education consultant in Washington D.C., says parents are reaching out desperate for other options.

"Right now people are in panic mode," according to education consultant Marnie Weinstein.

When asked how many parents had reached out to her, Weinstein said, “My emails are overflowing. My text messages are overflowing.”

Weinstein is helping parents form what they're calling learning pods, small groups of young children paired with a single teacher in a home.

"It could be a basement. It could be a room upstairs just as long as the teacher can set it up to feel like a classroom," Weinstein said.

This pod in a suburb of Atlanta has 7 families and 25 kids from kindergarten through 5th grade.

"We talked about consistency and routine. Whoever is hosting the group of kids. My kids are going to get their backpacks, laptop in their backpack, their water bottle and a snack and they're going to take it to whatever house they're going to. We hope we're going to stay pretty consistent with that," said Meredith Copley, a mom and organizer of the learning pod.

Another mom and learning pod organizer Andrea Labouchere said, "I've envisioned a one room school house. We wanted to create an environment where our kids could work together, eat together and have that social part of school. It's so important for their development."

Their kids also like this option.

"I'd rather be in a pod with my friends than be at home, working on school by myself," said Mary Harper.

From San Francisco to Toledo, Ohio to Tampa, Florida “pandemic pods” or micro school groups are popping up all over social media each with their own set of rules.

But in-person instruction doesn't come cheap with some parents guaranteeing a teacher their full salary or even more even if their child ends up back in a classroom at some point this year.

“So a lot of the teachers tell me, they’re not sure they want to sign on. And a lot of them are coming back because they can get the same amount of money or more working half day staying safe,” Weinstein said.

A lucrative deal for teachers, but yet another way COVID-19 has highlighted how a good education often depends on what your parents can afford.

It’s a more cost-effective option for families who plan to follow their school’s virtual learning plan.

In many cases, the details are still being ironed out but parents who have kids with a pre-existing condition or special needs say the pod model is safest for their families as the pandemic continues.

Many officials and health experts agree it’s important for kids to be physically in school, but they highlight the need to balance that with public health considerations.