HARRISBURG (TNS) — For parents that both hold high paying professional careers, staying home to guide their children through the kind of remote or hybrid learning platforms that are presently provided by many public schools is not an option.

For a growing number of these professional couples concerned about their own professional goals there is a new solution. A solution that will prevent their children from falling months behind when forced to struggle through home learning formats.

The new concept is called a “learning pod.”

At this point, learning pods are normally composed of three to 10 children from families with limited exposure to the virus and limited exposure to the essential workers that account for the majority of cases and hospitalizations particularly in urban areas.

Like-minded families of means are starting their own learning pods and hiring private teachers. The process begins by converting a guest house, pool house, or basement into a high tech classroom, complete with the latest in digital education hardware, iPads, and high speed internet. This concept is geared to work best when used to supplement an existing remote or online learning platform.

The costliest part of the learning pod is hiring a teacher. Tutor and teacher placement agencies are fielding more and more inquiries for certified and vetted teachers to serve as this vital part of the learning pod. Teachers, depending on experience and credentials are being paid a salary between $60,000 and $120,000, accounting for the hourly rate of approximately $60 to $100 per student.

By hiring a teacher to guide, clarify, and reinforce online learning concepts parents are assured that none of the students fall behind, thereby releasing parents from that burdensome responsibility. Parents are then allowed to continue their careers with piece of mind that the education of their children is in competent hands.

There are many clear advantages to learning pods, beginning with providing children with a set schedule. Educational experts agree this could be the best way to allow children to feel safe. Parents are also assured that their children are receiving structure, real-time instruction, and social interaction. Most importantly parents feel their children are relatively safe from coronavirus within this mini-school concept.

As parents become more familiar with the learning pod, the comment, “Why didn’t we think of this earlier?” Is heard most often. On the surface, this idea of learning pods could very well be a better option than costly private schools that can amount to $30,000 to $50,000 per year.

The interesting question is, could the concept of a learning pod with a private teacher continue after the pandemic is no longer a concern. Many are beginning to feel the answer is yes. As the politics of school choice broaden so does the advantages of private learning pods, especially in the primary grades, and this is not good news for public or private schools.

Here in Pennsylvania there are additional factors that would make learning pods a more practical option. At the present time here in Pennsylvania, school taxes paid to local school districts can be rerouted to online cyber schools at no additional cost if a parent chooses to withdraw their child from their local public school. The learning pod would then provide all the advantages of in-person instruction, social interaction, structure, and safety from any form of school related safety threat.

The one downside to private learning pods was pointed out in a recent opinion piece in the New York Times written by Clara Totenberg Green. She states in her op-ed that learning pods will contribute to racial segregation. She believes that children whose parents have the means to participate in learning pods will return to school academically ahead of low-income children.

Time will tell what changes originally generated by the pandemic will remain after the coronavirus is no longer a threat, but it is very possible that learning pods will remain, to the detriment of both public and private schools.

(Robert Griffiths is a retired educator, an educational consultant and a member of the Cornwall Lebanon School Board.)

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