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How to Keep the Peace in a School Pod

  • September 27, 2020

Ivi Kolasi, a parent in Berkeley, Calif., didn’t expect that forming a learning pod for her 2-year-old daughter would take so long, or be so hard. In May, she began trying to find families with children around the same age as hers, and who adhered to the same level of health precautions. By August, she had developed a set of guiding principles for the group and located three other families, one of whom would split duties hosting the children with Ms. Kolasi.

Then, less than two weeks into the fall term, fire season arrived, and with it, a new series of discussions over email, text and video chat about health and safety. One recent meeting about air quality standards, during which the group talked about when the kids could play outside and where host families would place air purifiers, grew so heated that Ms. Kolasi nearly quit in frustration — though members did eventually reach an accord. “I don’t think people realize how ridiculous this process is,” she said.

Managing your child’s remote learning in conjunction with other parents can produce tensions over issues like splitting payments for a private teacher, unexpected expenses, health risks outside the pod, kids’ differing behavior or even the logistics of snacks and drop-off times. “These pods will not be perfect,” said L’Heureux Lewis-McCoy, a sociologist who studies educational equity at New York University. “This has been something that emerged in response to crisis, and so it is absolutely complicated.” But you can address sources of conflict at their roots. Here’s how.

In July, Marlowe Greenberg, a parent of two — ages 9 and 12 — in New York, initiated a pod with a few family friends. They established safety protocols, sought out a teacher and went over granular, sometimes intrusive-sounding lifestyle questions, covering everything from the kids’ extracurriculars to disinfecting groceries. “Friendships have been tested,” Mr. Greenberg said wryly.

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