Alternative Schooling: Pandemic Pods

Many parents and teachers are fed up with waiting around to be told what to do next, so they are teaming up and taking matters into their own hands. Back to school time has been a stressful ordeal for everyone involved and many are left just trying to understand and learn how to navigate it all. Some schools have implemented a remote-learning-only policy while others are doing a mix of both. A few are even planning to be open full-time.

Due to the state of things, teachers and parents are going for non-traditional methods of schooling this fall. Many parents have voiced their concerns and fears about sending their children back to school and are opting for full-time homeschooling on their own terms. Yes, parents are deciding to cut ties with schools completely (even if the school has remote options) in favor of their own measures. They also do not want to risk exposure, those who have children attending schools without remote options, that is.

Parents are not alone in their concerns, plenty of teachers are also disagreeing with school reopening plans for this upcoming year. They are fighting the school districts over this as well. For example, in Florida, the largest teachers’ union sued both the governor and the education commissioner. Their schools are intending to go back to the way things were before the pandemic. The teachers are demanding smaller class sizes as well as additional protection for themselves.

Most parents and teachers are choosing to avoid this chaos altogether and are pursuing their own educational path. As a complement to homeschooling, parents have come up with “pandemic pods.” These are home-based, micro-schools and they provide families with the ability to rotate teaching duties or combine their assets to hire an educator or other qualified individual. According to the Wall Street Journal, these pods are rapidly gaining popularity and parents are sharing them with other families, thus, piquing more interest.

When it comes to the law, pandemic pods are a bit of a grey area. It’s a pretty new concept and many districts just aren’t there yet. Not to mention, the ever-increasing number of parents opting out of school this fall makes the legal side of things much more complicated. These pods have received plenty of criticism due to claims that they will “widen gaps” between high and low-income households.

An op-ed in The New York Times this week bashed these pandemic pods, saying “they will exacerbate inequities, racial segregation and the opportunity gap within schools.” These criticisms don’t take into account the fact that there are parents who have created pods that don’t cost any money and who are educating in co-op form. As another article in the New York Times states, “the population of home-schoolers — before the pandemic — was less affluent than average.” Pandemic pods are not exclusive to wealthy families.

COVID-19 is changing the way parents view the educational system and bringing many things to light. Parents are upset, and rightfully so. However, now they have the opportunity to test out new teaching methods and learning tools with their children and new educational policies will make sure every family who wants to try something new is able to do so.

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