Parents turning to new virtual education trend called Pandemic Pods

INDIANAPOLIS — State health officials are calling for school districts to cohort younger students into pods as they go throughout their school day. The idea has parents combining the concept with virtual learning. They call are calling them pandemic pods.

A parent will host a group of the same students who all learn together virtually with a teacher or tutor. The idea is to reduce the chance of spread while still giving students a social environment.

“School is where kids learn to make friends, to deal with rejection, to work with people who are different from them,” explains Brian Galvin, Chief Academic Officer with the online education program Varsity Tutors, “We’ve had lots of interest in homeschooling, ‘Hey can you create a group of students to go through core curriculum together?”

Parents may share hosting duties and costs. The combo allows for the schooling to be affordable and give them the ability to alleviate childcare challenges. Galvin says the system works for all ages, but they have seen the most success with upper elementary school students.

The children may either gather in front of a monitor or TV in a home, or simply share a small virtual classroom while remaining in their own homes. Whether it be in a video chat setting, or in person, Galvin says it allows for students to ask questions, bounce ideas off of peers, or get the one-on-one attention that may not be as easy in a larger, public school e-learning classroom setting.

Varsity Tutors offers both individual classes for tutoring, or the full home school curriculum.

“We will walk you through the process of getting filed with the state as a home school. We will put together a schedule of classes for you with small groups for academic classes,” explains Galvin, “If there is any kind of outbreak, we haven’t effected everyone else.”

Infection specialists at Riley Children’s Hospital say the pandemic is the time to find creative solutions for academic learning, but it rarely comes without risks. While pods will reduce exposure compared to a traditional school environment, there is a large trust factor involved with people in a pod.

“It’s important that if you have a pod of five kids, and each has two parents, well that’s ten more people in the mix that could be exposed,” details Adam Karcz, Director of Infection Prevention at Riley Children’s Hospital, “If there are other siblings that are in part of those households, you could double and possibly triple the amount that could be congregating, and possibly exposing others.”

Karcz says anyone who tries to pandemic pod, should still follow all state and local guidelines when it comes to congregation.

“Make sure that you are following appropriate social distancing rules, as well as mask wearing, and hygiene disinfecting of surfaces,” Karcz adds.

Karcz continues to say recent local and national data shows younger children appear to have less positivity or severe cases, but they can still spread the virus.

“The trouble with younger kids is they are generally not as disciplined in terms of not putting your hands in your mouth, not touching other people, washing your hands,” lists Karcz.

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