Knox County Schools parents plan “pods” for virtual learning

A new concept called pods allows parents to potentially be working from home while their kids would be learning from home.
Published: Jul. 21, 2020 at 9:39 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 21, 2020 at 10:18 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Pods, co-ops, virtual or in-person learning--these are all new school terms for this fall due to the pandemic. Knox County Schools released a plan last week that allows parents and families to choose whether to send their students back or to learn at home.

Learning from home works for some families, like the Schnells.

“They have a time that they need to start, a time that they go to lunch, a time that they come back and it looks much more rigorous. And it doesn’t necessarily depend on me, the parent, to be the teacher,” said Chrissi Schnell.

A new concept called “pods” allows Schnell to potentially be working from home while her kids would be learning from home.

“So if I made this decision to go down this virtual road, I would have to basically depend on a village, and then I would have to make my little, tiny village,” said Schnell.

Schnell says she is looking for a pod for her 6th and 7th grade boys. This means she is trying to find families who are doing the same thing in a Knox Co. middle school.

“You would agree kind of on these guidelines. This is our group, these are our rules, and we can basically act like an extended family,” said Schnell.

Schnell’s teenage son Brayden is a 7th grader at West Valley Middle School and is fine with virtual learning.

WVLT News spoke to a woman, Nikki Dickson, who is a mom to two 10th graders. She already has her pod set up.

“We know that as teenage boys they need to have social interaction,” explained Dickson, “But we also are concerned we don’t want to expose them to too many people and increase the risk that they either get sick themselves or bring something home.”

Dickson is allowing her sons to play football on the school team and plans to have a total of five boys in her pod. These are kids that live in their neighborhood and go to school with her sons, and they’ve been hanging out together all summer.

“So we thought it would be a good idea to let them meet together during the school year and do virtual school together,” said Dickson.

Both moms said they are hopeful they can get their students the classes and friends they need.

“I’m glad we get choices. My children have different abilities, and we basically had to balance what would work between the two of them and our family,” said Chrissi Schnell.

Students who choose the virtual learning program through Knox County Schools must enroll before midnight Wednesday July 22.

Some parents have questioned the difference between a co-op or cooperative and pod. A Knox County home school teacher, Carrie Holland with Freedom Home Educators, said a co-op is when parents are also the teachers, meeting up once to twice a week to teach students in person.

Schnell explained pods as ways for parents to get their children social interaction, but to learn through school system teachers while parents facilitate their kids’ education.

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