DC-Area Families Form ‘Pandemic Pods' to Supplement Online Learning

"We're in a difficult situation... but you want to get the best for your child and you want to maximize the learning on those online days"

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Online learning during the spring was tough for a lot of families, and now many parents are concerned about their kids falling behind in the fall.

One solution? Some D.C.-area families are banding together to form "pandemic pods" and hiring teachers and tutors for at-home education.

The concept is simple: Small groups of children gather in one place with a tutor to guide them through online learning.

These pods are an idea many parents are taking seriously, including one family in Maryland.

Blake Tassy is headed into 3rd grade with Montgomery County Public Schools this fall. He did not like online learning during the spring.

"It was tiring, not fun," he said.

His parents are concerned the less-than-ideal schooling circumstances could mean Blake falls behind.

"A lot of parents are concerned about their kids falling behind. I think that is a huge issue," said Blake's mother Natalie Ottey, who is a college professor.

"We're in a difficult situation. Montgomery County Public Schools is trying to do everything they can, but you want to get the best for your child and you want to maximize the learning on those online days," said Blake's father, Dr. Leonard Tassy.

Ottey said many parents are worried about kids falling short of grade-level standards, but hopes extra at-home support could keep her son in step or even ahead.

So, they reached out to neighbors and the tutoring company Blake works with. They have about ten 3rd grade families interested so far, and each family would split the teacher's salary.

The pods can be full homeschool where private teachers design a curriculum or work as a supplement, like a guide through online learning.

Lori Solovey, the owner of LS Tutors in Bethesda, had to quickly come up with a pod formula for clients.

But finding tutors who are willing to leave the stability and benefits of a full-time teaching job has been tough. Solovey sent out 50 inquiries and so far only three may be interested in this new job. And she has 20 families waiting.

Blake misses the activities and experiences school offers and his friends. Having a pod could help there, too.

"I get to see them," Blake said. "I haven't seen them in a long time."

Costs could vary, but a group of four kids being tutored for four hours a day would run about $45 per hour per child.

A second option LS Tutors offers is a pod co-op plan, which would be cheaper for most.

Each family in the co-op group would oversee learning one day a week while a tutor provides virtual support to parents, helping them be successful facilitators and deal with scheduling, curriculum and supplies. That would cost about $2,500 per family for one semester.

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