Pandemic Pods/Learning Pods

Pandemic Pods/Learning Pods

COVID has brought our schools and families many new challenges to deal with, and as parents and school districts struggle to meet the needs of students this fall, one of the newest concepts in our education world is Pods – sometimes referred to as Pandemic Pods, MicroSchools, or Learning Pods.

Some pods are school district sponsored/supported such as those created by Adams 12 School District designed to support students in a remote learning environment, not intended to replace direct instruction, but rather the goal of the learning pod was to keep students safe, engaged and on task during remote learning.

A national group on Facebook provides ads and a matching service for families seeking educators or childcare. This group defines a “Pod” as 2+ families who agree to share schooling, tutoring, childcare and/or socialization for their children. According to the organization in Northern Colorado, “each pod can determine its own safety parameters and goals.”  They encourage families to reach out to their respective school to request they provide support for pods and/or connect families to the idea.

In Denver, there’s been the creation of a “community pod project”  established by a local youth advocate in an effort to address the inequities of pods created by parents of means for their children, leaving behind students who live in communities where equity gaps already exist often for students of color who are vulnerable to crime/violence, at greater risk of falling behind due to lack of supervision, technical support, mentoring and/or have no access to the internet.

The concern about increasing the gap between the Haves and Have-Nots is very real. It falls into the Unintended Consequences category.  Parents who have the financial means to seek help outside of what schools can offer on one end of the gap and those families who were especially dependent on their child’s school for services beyond the academic instruction  (such as meals), already struggling with no means to do more, on the other end.

Colorado schools already seriously underfunded are attempting to meet the challenges presented by both groups may find their funding threatened even more if Pod Students aren’t enrolled and counted on the October Count date, which is the date established by the state to determine how many students a district receives funding for.

The Colorado Department of Education is paying attention.  Often these homegrown learning environments, while well intended, bring about other challenges, and CDE is hoping to provide some guidelines and support.   The issues they are addressing with the attached fact sheets include:

Legal and safety requirements such as background checks, guidelines around securing licensed childcare professionals, safety and COVID health guidelines to make sure everyone is safe during learning time and after, and important information about whether your child is enrolled in public school, and understand the difference between homeschooling and private school.

As we’ve already mentioned, the unintentional negative impact Pods can have on public school funding.  It’s really important for parents who decide they need to go this route to partner with their school/school district in doing so.

“…public schools in Colorado are funded based on student enrollment as of October, commonly known as October Count.  Students who enroll after October Count place an added financial burden on schools and districts, because schools and districts will not receive any funding for those students.  Parents and caregivers are encouraged, when it is within their control, to plan their enrollment decisions in a way that helps support proper student funding.”

See “What Else I Need To Know” section at the end of the fact sheet.