North Texas Families Team Up for At-Home Learning

'Pandemic pods' provide support for students and parents

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With just weeks to go before school starts up again, Frisco mom Sarah LaJudice said all options are still on the table when it comes to deciding whether she’ll send her first and fourth-graders back for in-person classes.

Spring was tough.

“I don’t think any of us really knew what we were doing at least for the first week or so, because there was a lot of information just being thrown at us,” said LaJudice.

If she had to do it again, she’d likely do so in a community of other parents, a co-op or ‘pandemic pod’ like families are doing all over the country.

“Well, it’s not a new thing. It would be a new thing for us, but co-ops have existed for some time,” said LaJudice. “We’re trying to find a way that we can help each other, not just the kids but the parents as a whole.”

It’s a plan she’s talked about with neighbors and friends Michelle Lowrie and Tim Polk.

Though Polk has since decided to send his two kids back for in-person learning, he said support from fellow parents has been necessary during this time.

“I know my strengths and weaknesses. You know, we have to do that at work right as far what our opportunities are. So you know, I might not be the best one or my wife, but the neighbor, she might have a better command over something and the kids might respond a little better,” said Polk.

Though there are no concrete plans in place, Lowrie said she envisions a group where parents who have the opportunity to be home can assist a small group with the district’s virtual learning plan.

“What I’m looking to do is, like I said, tie in all these little pieces and join those families and have those families join in,” said Lowrie.

Lowrie's third grader works on a virtual lesson this past spring.

Perhaps, LaJudice said, they’d rotate days with parents taking turns on who hosts the kids based on the subject matter.

“We all have different educations. We’re all from different backgrounds, so you pretty easily find somebody that knows the information you need whether its math or coding or helping a child with English,” said LaJudice.

Other parents forming pods have pooled resources to hire a private tutor or teacher to assist with the school district’s curriculum or, in some cases, to homeschool.  

Some have even paid hefty fees to have a private company take care of the organization and hiring.

A McKinney Facebook group aiming to connect families looking for groups or support while helping kids learn at home has added more than 700 members.

In addition to support, Lowrie hopes a group can provide their students' safe socialization.

She also hopes they can find ways to add in the activities, like P.E., that the kids will miss out on by staying at home.

“I think just making it a little less stressful is my big goal. And then also, just helping parents feel like they’re going to be ok, and there are people around them that are going to help them through it,” said Lowrie.

*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.

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