Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, school districts throughout the United States and around the world have been developing solutions that allow students to achieve the same level of education remotely as they can in the classroom. Over the coming weeks, many school districts are preparing to welcome students back to campus using solutions and procedures that weigh the potential health risks with the benefits of a traditional in person education. Some parents, however, believe that many districts are opening too soon and have been seeking an alternative learning environment in which their children can achieve the benefits of in person education while minimizing the risk of catching and spreading the coronavirus. If you have been tuning in to education news recently, you may have come across a story or two about pod schools or micro schools, but what are they and how do they work?
What is a “Pod School” or “Microschool?”
A pod school, or microschool, is an environment in which only a handful of students learn together in person under the instruction of a parent, tutor, or certified K12 teacher. Essentially, a group of parents will organize a learning “pod” for their children and either switch off with each other teaching the group or split the cost of hiring a tutor or K12 teacher to come to the pod and instruct their children. The “pod” may also be rotated between the parents houses in an effort to reduce the risk of each family’s home becoming infected with the coronavirus, as well as give the children a change of scenery as they have likely been spending most of the past couple months inside their homes.
Microschools sound like a great solution to giving children a more robust learning environment than a completely remote classroom while minimizing the risk of COVID-19 exposure and spread throughout the community, but as is the case with any solution comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Let’s weigh the good with the bad and take a closer look at how these schools may affect your children, family and community over the upcoming semester.
Advantages of Pod Schools
The benefits of microschools may seem pretty obvious. They offer an environment in which students can achieve the benefits of in person learning, along with all of the social and developmental benefits that come with it, while minimizing the risk of exposure to the coronavirus. Additionally, pod schools allow teachers, tutors, and recent college graduates to earn a living teaching in a time where their employment may have been put on hold or terminated all together, making a small impact on stimulating your community’s local economy.
Disadvantages of Pod Schools
While the benefits of pod schooling seem pretty clear-cut, some of the disadvantages may be harder to see. To start, entering your child into a microschool can be expensive, as much as $2,500 per month for each student. If you have been considering a pod school for your child and plan on teaching the classes yourself or alongside a group of other parents, you may not see the monetary disadvantages of this decision. However, taking your child out of the public-school system may disadvantage other members of the community in unforeseen ways.
Many parents as well as experts have argued that microschools may widen the inequality gap that is already all to prevalent in our current educational system by taking public funding out of the school district. L’Heureux Lewis-McCoy, Ph.D., an educational sociologist who studies educational inequality at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development argues that in many states educational funding follows the students, meaning that if they are not attending class on the school’s campus the district could see decreased funding for the students who remain. Being that microschols often come with a heavy price tag, students with a stronger socioeconomic background will have the ability to peruse this type of learning environment at a much higher rate than students who’s families have less resources available, leaving these students stuck in underfunded school districts.
The biggest thing that educators have learned over the past couple of months is that the coronavirus is a problem with no perfect solution. Every path back to a safe and effective learning environment comes with its share of advantages and disadvantages. Pod schools and microschools are an excellent example of this. On the surface, microschools sound like the perfect solution to lowering the risk of your student becoming infected with COVID-19. However, this extra protection comes at a cost for both yourself, your family and your community. The next couple of months are going to be a challenge, but we have never seen a challenge that educators could not overcome, and this will be no different. From all of us at Script, we wish you a safe, happy and healthy start to the 2020-2021 school year!