‘Pandemic pods’ may undermine promises of public education

With schools reopening after COVID-19 closures, concerns about the safety and certainty of public schooling have driven some parents to consider alternatives to sending kids back to brick-and-mortar classrooms.

One option making headlines is the formation of “learning pods” also known as “pandemic pods.” Pandemic pods are small groups of children from different families who learn together outside of traditional school buildings.

While pandemic pods may seem relatively harmless, they are part of a growing trend towards education privatization that undermines public education and democracy. The advent of pandemic pods has been facilitated by micro-communities of organized parents operating in communities across Canada — where public education has been privatizing for decades.

In fact, the number of families choosing private schools or homeschooling has increased and public schools’ reliance on private funds has become normalized. Among other concerns, these shifts point to some parents’ diminishing confidence in governments.

Private interests

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NCHSAA clarifies use of pods at skill development sessions

— The N.C. High School Athletic Association still recommends schools use pods at skill development sessions, but will not have a statewide requirement on the size of the pods.

According to an email update sent to member schools on Tuesday morning, the NCHSAA recommends schools use pods at workouts and follow local guidelines to adjust the size of the pods.

Pods are small groups of players who workout with each other each day. This limits the number of athletes exposed to one another, so if one athletes contracts COVID-19, it is easier to conduct contact tracing to determine which athletes may have been exposed to the virus.

Cardinal Gibbons football practice (July 30, 2018)

Since June 15, when the NCHSAA allowed schools to resume workouts, teams and schools have been required to workouts in pods. Initial guidelines from the NCHSAA required the pods consist of the same 5-10

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An Education Innovation That Beats Learning Pods

Faced with public education’s failure to adapt to Covid-19, parents who can afford it are pooling their resources and hiring private tutors to lead home-based “pod” schools. Dreading the prospect of a mass exodus of families from traditional public schools, progressive pundits are condemning these parents for pioneering “the latest in school segregation.” But education policy makers truly committed to “equity” should look past the current crisis for ways to serve students better within the traditional public-school system.

More than half of Idaho’s high-school seniors are enrolled in college—many remotely—thanks to its four-year-old “Advanced Opportunities” program. When Idaho students reach seventh grade, the state provides them with $4,125 that they can use to customize their high-school education. Depending on their career and educational goals, students can use the money to earn college credit by taking courses that are taught online, on campus, or by high-school teachers in partnership with professors.

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Learning pods are here to stay and could disrupt American education

That is what Kendra Newton is doing: The 24-year-old first-grade teacher resigned from her job with Orange County Public Schools in Florida after learning she would have to teach in-person this fall. She is moving across the country to Oregon, where she will lead a pod of eight students — for a higher salary than she earned in Florida.

“It gave me a way to feel safe working,” Newton said. “I will have guaranteed money coming in, and a stable idea of what my life will be like, because there won’t be a school district changing its mind every two seconds. For my mental health, it’s just a better option.”

No reliable data exists on how many teachers have left, or are considering leaving, their jobs to teach pods. But worried school officials are sending emails claiming that pods pose just as much of a health risk as returning to

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