Aren’t pods only for peas? What’s a pod?
A pod, sometimes referred to as a “micro-school,” is a small group of students learning together for academic, social, and/or logistical childcare related reasons, when regular “in-person” school is not available, such as during the current Covid-19 Pandemic. Usually, the “pod” cycles the responsibility of childcare and education, whether this is through pooled parental efforts alone, or even a group effort to hire an educator/tutor/nanny. While completely virtual options of education exist, many parents need support beyond this. Pods can help bridge these gaps, specifically in regards to social activities, and childcare needs for working parents, all while considering the health and safety of our community and making a conscious effort to continue slowing the spread of Covid-19.
Are pods only for homeschooling?
No, a pod is flexible to families’ needs and wants and do not even have to only be about school. Pods are compatible with public or private school in-person or hybrid curriculum, 100% virtual curriculum, homeschooling, socialization or play dates, tutoring/homework support, and simply childcare (nanny sharing, caregiver childcare trading, in-home daycare).
The aim is to keep contact circles small and safe in this pandemic while providing much needed support to families and children.
What should I think about to find or form a pod?
- What do you anticipate your family’s needs being over the next 4-6 months?
- Do the kids need to socialize and play safely with others in their age group?
- Do they need adult support to focus on remote learning or their homework and/or simply for childcare/supervision?
- Are you open to mixing multiple grades together?
- Are you open to mixing multiple schools together, keeping in mind each child may have a slightly different schedule unless they are in the same class? (Note: through your virtual or home school, you might be able to request the placement of children in the same grade in the same class; this is might be more possible for virtual schools, but not for “regular schools” doing remote learning, but it’s worth asking for now before class lists are finalized!)
- What do the adults in your family need?
- What can you offer?
- What is your level of acceptable risk as it relates to covid and other hazards?
- What risk does your family potentially bring to the group?
- How can you compromise and/or mitigate those risks?
Wait, did you just answer one question with 9, now 10 questions? Yes, those are all questions to ask yourself to help define how you want to approach forming or joining a pod.
Who should lead a pod?
That is up to you and your pod-mates. Some pods opt to rotate responsibility between parents. Some hire outside help. Some build in a mix of both. Consider what you want for yourself and your student, and then look for like-minded parents and still consider compromise. Pods can follow virtual curriculum or remote learning from their districts or can pursue alternative education such as homeschooling. Always consider what is legal and permitted in your state and county when making these choices. For more, see: Learning Pods 101: Tutor-led, teacher-led or parent-led?
What are the pros and cons of pods?
- Take a more active and direct role in your child’s education
- Provides a support system/back-up for constant uncertainties of changing in-school options
- Small-group pods with consistent members are often safer than large gatherings of students in schools and help protect our educators and ourselves. To have the enhanced safety though, pods should not intermix or at least consider how many more people/families that brings together in a contact circle.
- Pods offer a system with enough flexibility to think outside the box but enough stability to make durable plans that can accommodate your family’s needs where other options fall short.
- Pod making will likely require some compromise and some effort on each member’s part.
- It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Think of a pod as a living thing that will require a lift in the beginning but should be treated as a small community with open communication and some flexibility. This will still require energy and time. Give yourself some grace and don’t give up.
- Is this what dating is like in 2020? Yikes! It is hard because you’re building relationships in a time when people’s trust is a bit more weary and complicated. Keep in mind, you do not have to rush this. A pod can form at any time; it does not have to be in place by Aug. 24! Your child’s school may help lead to pod formation among the families in the class.
- It’s unclear how flexible public schools will be to accommodate pod learning.
What if I see an ad I want to report as unrelated, selling illegal services, and/or suspicious?
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the link to the ad you wish to report and a brief explanation as to why you are reporting it. Keep in mind this email is not checked regularly, so it may take several days for a response.
Do I have to pay to be in a pod?
No, pods can be supported through the parents/guardians themselves providing support and guidance to the children; through hired services of nannies, tutors, teachers, daycares/camps; or a mixture of the two.
But I work full-time, so how do I exchange services with other families in a pod?
You may be eligible for additional partial paid leave from your employer thanks to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Read more about what other government assistance is available to families when schools are closed for in-person learning from Forbes and from the U.S. Department of Labor.
*What laws and precautions should I be aware of?
Childcare Laws: Currently, no more than 4 children unrelated to the caregiver are allowed to be watched in anyone’s home or facility without a state license. Read more.
Hiring Someone? Know the Labor Laws: A paid caregiver is considered a household employee subject to federal and state tax requirements if they are paid $2,200 or more by a family in a year. For more on this, read about federal taxes and about Colorado tax and wage laws. Payments can be simplified by asking your tax adviser for assistance or using an existing service. See a comparison of payroll service options. A tutor your hire as part of a tutoring company or someone who operates their services under an LLC might be considered an independent contractor. You must clarify this with the person you intend to hire. Learn more about the differences between a household employee and independent contractor.
Consider the importance of running a background check on someone you’re hiring or even of the parents/guardians that will be around your children. To learn more about how to run a background check for less than $10 in Colorado, read this news article. Try an Internet search for background check services. There is also a local company in Windsor offering a background screening package for childcare situations.
Creating an agreement outlining expectations between families and, if applicable, between families and hired help (nanny, tutor, teachers, etc.) is very helpful to pod communication and management. Creating this document can help guide important conversations and decisions at the start about how the pod will function and outline most expectations. Start with this sample document, which can be copy-pasted or saved as a template to start your own! A formal agreement with hired help should contain details regarding pay, pay schedule, leave, and other aspects (see care.com example).
Liability insurance is another factor to consider. Check with your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance company. Consider spelling some details out in an agreement. Read more.
*This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of possible applicable laws or insurance issues and is not a replacement for legal advice from an attorney. Businesses and organizations linked are in no way affiliated with the web developer and have not paid to be mentioned on this site.
What is the difference between my district’s 100% virtual curriculum and my child’s “regular school” remote learning?
Your district’s 100% virtual curriculum is likely a separate school you can choose to enroll your child in for a designated period of time. That length of time is determined by your district. Some likely require a certain time period of commitment. Your child’s “regular school” remote learning is run by that school and its teachers. Each school and possibly the district may set some universal standards so there’s less confusion. Try to remember that teachers and schools were crisis teaching in a remote setting last spring. Most schools have conducted training and set some more standards for remote learning this year.
I’m frustrated! Why is pod formation so hard?!
If you are feeling uncomfortable, confused, overwhelmed, or maybe all three, that is normal. Pod forming takes hard work. It’s an involved process and there is no formula for doing it “right.” Don’t give up! Remember that people are discovering the pod idea everyday and you might be a few clicks away from a great match for your family! Don’t doubt your ability to make this work for you
Is it socially conscious to form a pod?
There is a lot of conversation about concerns that Pod’s create segregation in our communities, and could leave economically disadvantaged and at-risk youth behind. These issues facing our community are not easily solved, and pods are not a perfect system. What we can offer is our acknowledgment that these gaps exist in our communities, and that we are listening and learning. We should all commit to doing better. Additionally, we are constantly trying to reach every family we can who could be assisted through pod formation, and we encourage our members to be inclusive and open-minded when forming pods. It is our absolute hope that this website will be a resource for social equality, and we are receptive to methods through which we can expand our assistance! Get more ideas on how to do better!
Who runs this website?
A community member who is a faculty member at Colorado State University started this website in mid-July 2020 to help the community network and learn more about remote learning and socialization pods in the Covid-19 pandemic. Another community member started the local Facebook Group (Pandemic Pods Northern Colorado), which is managed along with two other community members active in the local school districts around the pod idea. Together, we work to advance ideas, resources, and actions to help families through this challenge of school, childcare, work, and socialization while curbing the spread of Covid-19.
No data is being collected, shared, or sold on any user. For now, it continues to be a free service for families and businesses/entrepreneurs alike.
If you want to pitch in support or resources to this grassroots effort, reach out to email@example.com. Keep in mind this website and the Facebook Group are ran in our very little spare time. We’re doing the best we can with what we have to give our community!