LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Classrooms are a no-go in the fall for more than 300,000 Clark County School District students, so lots of parents are looking for alternative ways to teach their kids and keep them safe.
"Learning pods" or "pandemic pods" can be a safer and more productive learning environment for kids, but they're not for everyone. So, 13 Action News talked to a couple of experts about the pros and cons of educating your kids in a "pod" during a pandemic.
"Pods are groups of children that are in the same grade, the same level, that are grouped together perhaps with one educator, maybe a team of educators so parents can share the expenses and the coordination of learning and helping to get through this very challenging time," explained Bobbi Rebell, a mother and personal finance expert with “Tally.”
The idea seems fairly simple and it's picking up steam across the country. If kids can't safely be in school this fall, why not put them in a pod where they can stay safe and productive with their peers? After all, some studies indicate distance learning has its flaws.
"A lot of learning, for children, is from other children. So, when you’re in a pod, you’re not only experiencing one-on-one with your parents or with a teacher, you’re really getting the benefits of maybe another child has a question that you didn’t think of but that your child can benefit from," said Rebell.
Of course, the biggest question that comes with starting a pod is the cost. Experts estimate it can range anywhere from $15 per hour to tens of thousands of dollars a year, depending on what you can afford and what works best for your child.
"It depends on how much you’re doing. Is it just a homework helper and some support or are you bringing in a full teaching staff and basically emulating a school trying to create your own homeschool experience? So, the range could really be anything. And, of course, it depends on what area of the country you’re in and what your expectations are, and, most importantly, how involved the parents are going to be. If you’re going to completely depend on the teachers and the staff of this learning pod, well that’s going to be a bigger expense than if you’re just looking for a basic curriculum guide and someone to check in with once a week and make sure your kids are on track," said Rebell.
"None of us, as parents, plan to have the added expense of hiring a tutor or a nanny or sending our child to a daycare facility, especially those parents who attend public school or public charter schools," said Zurii D'ambra, a Las Vegas mother, parenting coach, and professional educator.
D'ambra recently started the Facebook group, "Pandemic school pods Las Vegas," and watched it explode in popularity almost overnight.
"We have a lot of families here in Las Vegas who work in the service industry or have to be outside of the home, who are on the front lines or working at a place where they are essential. So, a lot of those parents don’t have the capability to host a pod. So, they are looking for other places to allow their children either to go to another pod or to collectively come together as multiple families," said D'ambra.
With more than 1,000 members in the pandemic pod group, it's a great place to find other families, a safe place to put these pods, and the right educator to teach them.
"I'm seeing former educators, who are parents, who are offering their homes and offering their tutoring services for a low cost. I’ve seen our community businesses and nonprofits come together and offer some facilities to host small groups to do their learning there. And then I've seen the traditional private tutor situation, where parents are coming together, maybe in a group of four or five or six, and splitting the cost of a professional tutor," said D'ambra.
D'ambra says she can't tell you what's best for your child, but when dealing with this pandemic, she encourages every parent to have a plan.
"When I first started the group, my big statement was, “let’s hope that we don’t have to do this forever.“ But really, we see the dynamic of education changing this whole time and this might be the new normal for us. We don’t know when it’s going to be safe for us to go back into the brick and mortar situation. So, I see this lasting at least for the school year and my hope is that parents are just always prepared and flexible and use this option of school pods as an opportunity to maybe see how they can focus on their child’s education a little bit more," said D'ambra.
If you'd like to apply to join the "Pandemic School Pods Las Vegas" Facebook group, click this link.