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Parents Look to Socially Distanced Learning Pods for Fall School Semester

There was big news out of Austin, Texas this month, as in-person classes were declared to resume in the fall.

The announcement left many school employees and parents confused and upset … especially as COVID-19 cases continue to soar in the state.

“This is unacceptable, and I really find it to be a rather heartless, shortsighted and a political maneuver on their part,” said Ken Zarifis, president of Education Austin, an association that represents over 3,000 Austin school employees.

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) confirmed the news, while clarifying that there will be flexibility for families with health concerns.

“It will be safe for Texas public school students, teachers and staff to return to school campuses for in-person instruction this fall. But there will also be flexibility for families with health concerns so that their children can be educated remotely if the parent so chooses. Detailed guidance on what this will look like will be issued by TEA early next week,” the TEA’s statement read.

For parents who are concerned about the health of their children and their families amid COVID-19, there are some alternative options available.

While homeschooling remains a viable educational substitute for parents looking to continue quarantining, many families are also looking to socially distanced learning pods as well.

So, what are socially distanced learning pods?

These “pods” or “bubbles” are a way for two to three families to agree to socialize with one another, but no one else in order to cut down on exposure and risk to COVID-19. In these pods, families homeschool their children in one environment, while also creating a space for their children to socialize with regular playdates and activities.

During these school sessions and communal get-togethers, parents and children would ideally wear masks and socially distance themselves, by staying at least 6 feet apart at all times.

If you think your family may be interested in joining a socially distanced learning pod, there are a few things to consider first.

1. Think about who you choose to approach: Who you choose to set up these socially distanced learning pods with is essential to the safety of everyone involved. To minimize your risk of catching and spreading COVID-19, you’ll want to find a family that is being as careful as yours. That means a family who is spending more time at home, limiting their social contact, and wearing protective face coverings when they go out in public.

2. Consider a family that is low risk for complications from the virus: When picking a family to team up with, it’s important to consider everyone’s potential risk of complications from the virus. If a family is at a higher risk, it’s essential to make sure everyone involved is comfortable with the additional threats the pod poses.

3. Keep it small: When it comes to socially distanced learning pods, the smaller the group the better. Aim for two to three families with 5 to 10 people involved. It’s important to remember that every additional person who joins adds a greater risk to the group.

4. Pick a family that gets along well with your family: Chemistry is key in these pods. Not only is it important to make sure that your kids like each other, but that the parents get along as well. Consider the other family’s strengths and ask yourself if they will make this learning experience better for your family and sustainable for the school year.

Once you have locked down another family or two for the pod, set up a Zoom or FaceTime with them to go over the ground rules. Come up with a set of guidelines for everyone to follow and a protocol if someone becomes sick or comes into contact with COVID-19. You can even set up a two-week trial to make sure everyone gets along and is on the same page. Most importantly, everyone should feel free to make whatever decision is best for their family with no hard feelings involved.

Finally, lock down your educator. Whether you’ll be using a teacher from the school or working with an outside source, Jill’s Tutors has a wide variety of online tutors and educators available for all subjects and all levels of learning. Simply visit our website, call or text 512-598-5135 or email us at, and we’ll set you up with one of our talented, remote educators.

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