With the coronavirus closing so many schools this fall, “learning pods” have become very popular. Many childcare centers, day camps, and other organizations have developed programs to provide on-site learning pods for children, with tutors, computers, and dedicated rooms. Other groups do not have the physical plant but provide tutors to meet with groups of children in private homes. If your organization is gearing up to meet this need, do not forget some important basic principles.
First, check your state’s rules for childcare licensing. Some states have regulations so broad that even a small group of unrelated children can fall within the definition of “child care.” Your state may allow an exemption for school programs, or your pod may qualify as a home school or private school. Check with your state’s licensing agency or Department of Education about their rules. A handy summary of home school rules can be found here.
Second, be certain that you have insurance. If your group meets in individual residences, be certain that the homeowner’s insurance covers the activities, and that you have an agreement in place that will invoke it if a child is injured.
Next, put in place all of the waivers that you need. Check for not only a general liability waiver, but one that covers the coronavirus. If your organization is tutoring children who are attending public schools virtually, then you will need the parents to sign a FERPA waiver allowing your tutor to talk to the teachers.
Finally, be certain that you know and follow the current guidance about social distancing, masks, screening, and other precautions. It can be difficult sorting through the various guidelines, particularly those that are written for adults. The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued clinical guidance geared specifically toward children, and recommends different precautions for different age groups, activities, and learning needs.
This school year will be a challenge for parents and an opportunity for organizations to help them. Make certain that you have all of the licenses, waivers, and agreements that you need to serve children, work with parents, and protect your organization. If you have specific questions about policies for your organization, Taylor English Duma will be happy to help.