With most Los Angeles county schools starting back up on Aug. 18 and teachers and administrators still scrambling to figure out distance learning, more and more Los Angeles parents are considering starting up their own at-home pandemic pod (aka micro-schools, aka quaranteams). Curious about this latest trend in learning? Read on to find out what a pod is, how to start one, what it costs and more.
There's More Than One Kind of Pod
Not to complicate things further, but not all pods (groups of 3-6 students of similar ages) function in the same way. Here's a rundown of the basic pod types to consider.
Pod + Distance Learning: For parents who either can't oversee their child's virtual learning experience or want to supplement it with in-person instruction plus provide socialization for your kids, Scoot at Home can help you create an at-home learning pod. Scoot has a roster of fully vetted, experienced educators for grades K-12. You can contact them for a free consultation and help getting your pod going.
Pre-School Pod: Because preschools don't have state-mandated curriculum to follow, setting up a pod for little ones is a bit more straightforward. A company like Podskool can help pair your pod with an educator, who will provide play-based STEAM curriculum for children up to six years old.
Full-Time Pod: Parents looking to forego virtual instruction altogether for kids K-12 need a full-time pod teacher. (This kind of pod falls under homsechooling, and requires following guidelines set by the California Department of Education.) Locally based tutoring company Kids on the Yard now offers a service to help match families with a full-time pod teacher. (Similar to Scoot at Home, Kids on the Yard also offers "distant learning support" for children's regular school, with a learning pod option.) There are also Facebook groups popping up, like Tutors and Instructors of the San Fernando Valley, to help parents find a pod teacher on their own.
Co-op Pods: Instead of hiring an educator, some pod parents are sharing the teaching responsibilities. This might mean alternating supervising a small group of kids during their regular distancing learning instruction, and offering support as needed. Or, particularly if you have younger kids for whom distance learning is a nonstarter, it might mean taking turns leading the pod of little ones.
Pods Can Be Pricey
While parent-run pods are obviously free (not counting the cost of your time, of course), other types of pods vary in price, depending on the number of students, amount of hours and level of instruction. For example, an educator through Scoot at Home costs $349 a day (equivalent to five hours of instruction) for up to six students, kindergarten through 6th grade. That's about $60 per child—assuming your pod has six students. But if your pod has only three students, that amount goes up to $116 a day.
Other learning pod educators or tutors charge per hour and based on the number of students. An instructor with Diamond Learning Center in Granada Hills runs $40 an hour for two students, compared to $60 an hour for five kids.
Whether you're paying by the hour or by the day, the price for five hours of instruction, five days a week could cost more than $500 a week.
Pods Can Increase Inequities in Education
We can't talk about pods without addressing the inequities in education. Already, research has shown that distance learning increases the digital divide and disproportionately harms students of color. Experts say learning pods will only further that divide. According to a report on Vox, some school districts are looking at ways to create pod-like instruction for all students. In San Francisco, for example, the Department of Children, Youth and Their Families, with the support of the city, is setting up 40 learning hubs, located in libraries and recreation centers, for lower income students.
Full-time Pods Could Affect School Permits
Something to bear in mind if you permit into a school that's not your school of residence: Being in a pod could jeopardize your permit status. (Students who continue with online instruction while participating in a pod are not affected.) We've reached out to LAUSD to confirm the details and are waiting to hear back. We'll update this post once we know more, but in the meantime, if you're concerned about losing your permit, you should contact your child's school directly.
Additional Resources for Parents
DesignHive: Located in Mid-City, DesignHive offers their space for pods to meet, plus they also have pod kits with activities for kids.
Join the Troop: This networking app for parents can help you connect with other local moms and dads looking to find or create their own pod.
Schooling at Home - California Department of Education: For full-time pods, the California Department of Education provides guidance on setting up a homeschool.