As wealthy parents turn to ‘pandemic pods,’ startups aim to make them equitable

 

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Affluent families were quick to explore pandemic pods as an alternative to solitary virtual school. Now, startups are looking for ways to make the model available to all.

In certain communities across America, learning pods, or pandemic pods, have become all the rage. Parents eager to offer their children socialization and some form of in-person instruction (and working parents simply eager to solve the problem of child care) are banding together to turn basements, garages, and living rooms into minischools for half a dozen families. Some families are hiring a teacher to supervise and lead activities, and some are relying on one another. Most plan to maintain enrollment in traditional school and use the pod as a supplement.

Almost as soon as learning pods emerged as a trend, concerns about equity followed. Not every family has the resources to hire a private teacher, and not every family lives in a community where homes have extra space for desks, bean bags, and art supplies. Indeed, in many cases, families are grappling with far more essential challenges, such as putting food on the table or finding stable shelter. In New York City alone, 114,000 children are homeless.

But for a growing number of entrepreneurs, that resource imbalance is a problem to be solved, not a reason to give up on learning pods entirely. They argue that with the right approach to design and funding, learning pods could become a solution that works for everyone.

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