A Class in COVID: Parents create ‘learning pods’, search for additional education help as some schools plan all online classes

Back To School

(WTNH) — With all the uncertainty surrounding back to school in the time of a pandemic, some parents are taking things into their own hands by hiring tutors or creating their own small classrooms called “pods.”

That all means tutors and educational consultants are very busy. When schools closed due to COVID-19 back in March, consultant Lauren Rand opened up her garage. She has been an educational consultant for years, but when schooling went virtual, parents went looking for help.

“They reached out to me and said, ‘This is confusing: the remote learning. You know, we need some help,'” Rand said.

Rand helps 11-year-old William Sobota fill in the gaps in the online learning.

“On Zoom it sometimes glitches and it’s not really helpful because it usually cuts out and we have to get out of it and then, like, re-join,” William said.

“My son was coming to Lauren 2-3 times a week for extra educational support,” his mother Olga Sobota said. “So with having Lauren, it made things a lot easier for us.”

Same thing for 14-year-old Madison Griffin. She and her parents say virtual learning is tough.

“It’s difficult because it’s online. It’s not like, in person,” Madison said. “So if I needed help in person, I couldn’t get that.”

“The kids need more of the personal aspect,” said her father Rob Griffin. “Interaction with the teacher, as opposed to being online and stuff like that.”

On this day, Madison’s classroom is Rand’s back deck. While one-on-one tutoring is great, some parents are creating their own classes.

“‘Learning Pod’ is the big buzzword right now,” said Rand.

They often take the online learning offered by schools but do it in small groups of friends and neighbors.

“Maybe as big as 10 I’ve seen, where parents kind of group their children together, often by grade level,” Rand explained.

Rand also runs those pods, and she can do on-line classes as well, and right now she is just trying to keep up with demand.

“That’s my big thing. I spend more time looking for retired teachers, or maybe teachers that left teaching to be at home with their kids,” Rand said.

Parents are looking for those personal educators now more than ever because of the needs of kids like Madison.

“It’s made a huge difference because what she wasn’t getting in in-person teaching, she was getting from Lauren,” said Madison’s mother, Melanie Griffin.

Both the Sobotas and the Griffins were using Rand long before the pandemic, but she says she is also hearing from a lot of parents looking for help for the first time.

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