Whether you call them learning pods or microschools, they are a national phenomenon and a direct response to dissatisfaction with distance learning.
Typically, parents get together to provide a group environment for their kids to work together, sometimes hiring a teacher to provide face-to-face instruction.
We visited an example of a learning pod in Hallandale Beach.
“We realized that if we all came together we could turn this space into a beautiful learning pod as we call it and it would be a really good environment for the kids,” said Anthony Adelson, one of the parents involved.
Adelson joined two other families in turning an unused office space, which Adelson owns, into a place which feels something like a classroom. It has three rooms, a bathroom, and brand-new carpet, with fresh paint and educational posters on the walls.
The parents say they just wanted something better than what their children experienced at the end of last school year.
“Learning in their bed with pajamas on, hair messed up, teeth not brushed, so we wanted to have some type of structure for them,” said Rod Velez, one of the parents. “We just wanted them to be around friends as well. They were missing their friends, just interacting, so we felt this was the best type of classroom environment we could provide for our kids.”
“Getting them out of the house, going to a school or a pod is better than just staying home,” said Steve Feinzig, who has two children in the pod.
It helps that the kids in this microschool go to the same actual school, Beachside Montessori K-8. So everyone knows each other, their desks are set six feet apart, and everyone wears masks at all times.
“I wish everyone could do it,“ Adelson said. “I feel like we are just incredibly fortunate for the resources that we have, the friends that we have, to be able to all come together and do this.”
At this point, these parents haven’t hired a professional teacher yet because they’ve been able to work out their schedules, making sure there’s always at least one or two parents here to help the kids with whatever comes up, from technical issues to subject area questions.
“We’ll see how this goes and the parents are all open to that possibility,” Feinzig said, referring to the possibility of hiring a teacher. “And who knows, in the next three weeks, four weeks, we might be back at Beachside, our regular school.”
Schools will reopen in Broward County when the COVID-19 positivity rates get below 5%, the maximum at which infectious disease experts say schools can safely reopen.
The numbers are trending downward, but until schools physically reopen, the learning pods will be an option for parents who have the resources to create them.