In the last few weeks, many parents have raised their concerns about school this upcoming fall. If it happens in person, it might not feel safe. If it happens remotely, their children’s learning might be inadequate. In order to find a better solution, parents around the country have started organizing pandemic pods, or “home schooling pods, for the fall, in which groups of three to 10 students learn together under the tutelage of the children’s parents or a hired teacher.”
Pandemic pods could provide families with a school option that is safe, yet fun for their children. In some situations, it may even provide child care while they are working at home. However, pods are expensive, hard to organize, and self-selecting, making them most popular among families of privilege, which worsens educational inequality. For parents who can organize pods and who are able to afford them, pods are an easy choice.
One example of these pandemic pods is occurring here in the Bay Area. In San Francisco, pods organized by Red Bridge School cost $2500 per child per month for a pod size of five. While financial aid is available, this isn’t applicable for all pandemic pods that are beginning to take shape. Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that many lower-income families--whose children could fall behind by more than a year due to low-quality to no remote instruction and lack of access to the internet or a digital device—just aren’t able to afford to enter their children into pods.
What most families do is start from a place of self-interest. They ask themselves how to do what’s best for their family, and how to do what’s best for their children. And families who have greater sets of resources tend to use those resources to hoard educational opportunities. Unless something isn’t done to create an equitable solution for children’s learning that is accessible for all, the most well-off families will self-segregate according to privilege, allowing their children to benefit from their wealthy upbringing and leaving children of lower-income families behind.