Parents turn to ‘pandemic pods’ and ‘micro-schools’ as new school year approaches

Education

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — With most schools across California not returning to in-person learning this fall, some parents are worried their kids won’t be getting the same quality of education as they have in years past.

That’s why groups of families in Sacramento are forming learning “pandemic pods” and “micro-schools” to teach and care for their children together.

Carey Knecht’s 4-year-old son has desperately missed his friends since the pandemic began.

“It seems really important to kids to have other kids their own age to be silly with and make the jokes that only other 4-year-olds will really understand,” Knecht told KTXL.

She works full-time, and while her son’s day care is back open, she said she doesn’t feel safe sending him there.

“We would be more comfortable with a smaller number of families in the same room,” she said.

So, she started looking for alternatives and came across the concept of the “pandemic pods,” where small groups of families rotate caring for their kids and agreeing to their own safety protocols. 

“That means having conversations that families don’t normally have. About, where do you go? How do you get your groceries?” Knecht explained.

Knecht started a Facebook page looking for other families to share the burden. She said “it took off.”

Many families on the page were hoping to share child care, while others want to split the cost of private teachers to start micro-schools since most districts will not be returning for in-person classes. 

It’s a concept gaining steam all across the country.

“It’s just been an explosion of interest,” Shauna Causey said. “Parents across the board are just looking for options right now and in many cases, they are just in a desperate situation because they have to work and they need support.”

Shauna Causey’s company, Weekdays Micro-Schools, works to link neighbors up and help them find and vet teachers.

She said most groups are under 10 kids, often rotating between parents’ homes.

“We have some programs that are anywhere from $100 a week all the way up to $500 or $600 a week for full-time care,” Causey said.

There is a clear barrier for low-income families who are already facing an education gap with distance learning.

“Teachers are offering scholarships and sliding scale spots,” Causey said. “We want to make this as accessible as we can for everyone. “

As for Knecht, she said she’s still looking for the right fit of families for her pod. She hopes to keep her kids learning and growing while staying safe in their neighborhood. 

“Share the burden, share the load and have some social time,” she said.

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