Microschools and Pod Learning During COVID-19 & Legal Considerations
Some parents and caregivers, faced with the reality that schools would operate remotely in the
fall of 2020, turned to a different approach to schooling – the Microschool and the Learning
Pod. Some families who have already participated in a microschool or learning pod in the fall
plan to continue this spring, after many schools have announced continued remote learning at
least until the summer of 2021. Other families who did not participate in 2020 might want to
consider a microschool or learning pod for the spring of 2021.
What Are Microschools and Learning Pods?
A microschool, as implied by its name, is a small school with usually fewer than 10 children
enrolled. Some microschools are led by professional educators and housed in dedicated spaces,
while others are more flexible.
A learning pod is similar to a microschool, but this usually refers to a less strict, more flexible
system. Sometimes learning pods include professional educators, but they can also include
volunteer parents, caregivers, or paid caregivers who are not necessarily professionals. Learning
pods usually use borrowed spaces such as a family's dining room, a backyard, or a public park
The terms microschool and learning pod are sometimes used interchangeably, as are other
terms for a small group of children meeting to attend school. The term that you use for your
system is not as important as whether you are supplementing virtual or part-time public or
private school education, or whether you are replacing public or private school altogether. If
the latter is the case, you are homeschooling or operating a private school and are subject to
the rules and regulations of your state. In this case, you will need to follow the guidance on
your state's Department of Education website.
Pros and Cons to Consider
Benefits of learning pods and microschools include safe child care, socialization, and variety.
Proponents contend that pods are safer than traditional schools because in addition to having
an adult oversee learning, parents and caregivers have more control over the space where the
learning takes place and are aware of any potential dangers or opportunities for contamination.
However, microschools and learning pods can be complicated and costly, and they can lead to
disagreements or other problems that may become legal issues.
Legal Considerations of Microschools and Learning Pods
As discussed above, the first legal issue involved in microschools and learning pods is
determining whether you are subject to your state's homeschooling or private school laws. Not
only may you be subject to particular state laws if you are un-enrolling children and
homeschooling them, but also some states place a limit on how many children can learn
together in a microschool or learning pod before it is considered a private school, with its own
set of regulations.
For example, in New York, your participation in a microschool or learning pod is homeschooling
if you are choosing your own curriculum, and each family is directing their own children's
schooling. On the other hand, a New York microschool or learning pod is a private school if it
contains more than two families, and you have a teacher leading lessons for the majority of the
program. The same standards apply in California.
You may want to consider that in some states and school districts, "the money follows the student." Once your child and other children leave, the school will receive less funding.
You will also want to keep up-to-date on your state and city's emergency orders to ensure that
the location of your microschool or learning pod, the number of people meeting at a time, and
other operations do not conflict with these orders. Written agreements can address most other legal questions.