Return to School or Create a Learning Pod at Home?

As we leave summer behind and enter fall, the coronavirus continues to spread as social distancing and sheltering in place guidelines have been relaxed. But people are still testing positive, being hospitalized, and dying from the virus. As the pandemic continues, one of the biggest questions and concerns is whether or not your children will return to school in the fall or continue to learn remotely. 

Is Returning to School Safe?

There is no simple answer to this question as each state and county has a different belief and definition of what is considered safe. Also, different areas of the US are at different stages of the pandemic. Public health officials believe that returning to school on a more regular or a full-time basis will not be as safe for students or teachers, but they believe that creating a modified schedule will work for some school systems. Strict guidelines will have to be followed. Everyone will have to participate in keeping not only the students safe, but the teachers and staff as well.

On the other hand, The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) believes that returning to school is important for children’s mental, emotional, and physical health. This would mean that school systems have to work closely with teachers and parents to provide a safe environment for staff, children and parents. 

What is the Minimum Requirements for Schools to Reopen Safely?

  • Establish smaller classes.
  • Spread desks 6 feet apart.
  • Teachers, students, and support staff must wear masks.
  • Check temperatures of students and staff daily before students enter the school. 
  • Send anyone home who has a temperature or other symptoms, they must go home.
  • Regularly clean and disinfect bathrooms, doorknobs, desks, and other high touch areas.
  • Enforce one-way hallways to avoid students being too close to each other 
  • Place hand sanitizer stations in each classroom.
  • Encourage social distancing during all periods including class time, lunches, and PE.
  • Create a mixture of remote and in class learning.

Should I Let My Child Return to School?

Parents will need to decide if they want their child(ren) to return to a school on a modified schedule. While making the decision, the parent should consider the age of the child, the local number of cases in their county, whether their child will follow needed guidelines, and whether or not their child is at higher risk. Additionally, parents should take into consideration their ability to stay home with younger children or if they have to work. Again, there is no one answer that is right for everyone. Parents will need to decide what works for them and their child, and then make an informed decision.  

COVID-19 continues to change what normal looks like.  As school is supposed to be on its way, the virus is causing schools to rethink how children will be educated, and stressing parents out as to how their children will learn. Remote learning seems to be the safest plan at this time, as schools that have opened are having to shut down and students and teachers are being quarantined. Some parents have decided to do home school or learning pods.

So, What is a Learning Pod?

Learning pods are small groups of students, usually five to 10, in the same age and grade range who learn together from a hired teacher, tutor, or parent in the home. Usually done by family, friends, and neighbors, these groups are an attempt to provide education in a social distancing environment where students are still able to socialize and avoid the heightened risk of contracting the virus at school.

Are Learning Pods a Good Idea?

Learning pods offer students interactions with other children their ages, whereas remote learning is usually done alone at home, or with siblings ranging in age. Learning pods also give parents who have to work a safe place for their children during the day. They are a great idea for families who practice social distancing on a daily basis since the whole point is to avoid contracting the virus. Parents should select families for their pod who they know are exercising safe behaviors during the pandemic. Also, learning pods may only make sense for those who can afford them, because they can get expensive. If you can manage to form a learning pod in your home, it’s a great alternative to school because they give children the ability to learn in small settings while still being able to socialize.

Are There Any Downsides to Learning Pods?

Like most things, there are good and bad sides. Learning pods can range in cost from $250 to $2500 per child per month, which means that only those who are affluent can afford them. This may impact diverse communities, even though that’s not the intention. Additionally, public school funding is based off of the number of students who attend. This means that lower attendance may leave underprivileged children with even less access to needed educational materials and resources.

Should I Look into Learning Pods for My Child?

One thing that the coronavirus has taught us is that things are going to be different going forward, so parents will need to make the best choice for their family.  If parents do not feel safe having their child attend school, and can afford a learning pod, then the parent has to make the best choice for not only the safety of their child, but also the best educational choice for their child.  Children learn in different ways, and remote learning will not work for everyone, but neither will learning pods.  

As we navigate a new normal for school, work, and our daily living, it’s important to understand that what works for some will not work for others. Parents have to decide what will work best for their family and make the safest and healthiest choice for school. Children entering kindergarten will not do well learning online, so they’ll have to look at other options. Seniors won’t get to participate in a full year of extracurriculars in their final year – how do parents create a positive environment for them? Life is different these days, and all we can do is get creative and make the best of it!

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