​​Around the country, school districts are announcing that in-person school is canceled because of Covid-19 and that, until further notice, their schools will be using an entirely virtual model. Parents are in panic mode: They need childcare for the fall, and they need it now. Many parents are pursuing the solution of “Learning Pods”, sometimes called Microschools, where they form or join a small group program in which their children will work on their online schooling together – in person.

Ann Arbor mom and national summer camp consultant Sarah Kurtz McKinnon recognized that parents and organizations are also hiring “Learning Pod Leaders” who will manage the day-to-day operations of these pods. These leaders are part camp counselor, academic tutor, and group manager. They have a specialized and important job, but it’s also an unprecedented one: Pandemic Pods are completely new, and none of these leaders have had training specific to their new job.

To solve this problem, Kurtz McKinnon has recruited a team of youth development and education experts to create a comprehensive, self-paced virtual training program for Pod Leaders called ​Pod School Prep (w​ww.podschoolprep.com​). Pod School Prep covers crucial topics for Pod Leaders, such as working with parents, group dynamics, pedagogical techniques, mental health, child abuse prevention and making a Pod fun.

“Joining or forming a Learning Pod is an appealing solution for many parents in this incredibly difficult situation,” Kurtz McKinnon says. “But Pods will only be successful if the Pod Leaders are trained in how to do this challenging and important job.”

Pod School Prep will also provide personalized coaching for Pod Leaders. Whether the group is having an issue with bullying, a particular student is unmotivated, or the Pod Leader needs new ideas to keep kids engaged, Pod School Prep is ready to provide ongoing support and resources to these important caregivers.

Kurtz McKinnon says that Pod School Prep is also focusing its efforts on equity and access. Kurtz McKinnon and her team are offering grants and pursuing partnerships with organizations such as nonprofits and school districts to help get their Learning Pod programs launched and their staff members trained effectively so that more kids and working parents have viable options for the fall.

“There are many families and community organizations who are ready to start a learning pod program but need the additional support to do so,” Kurtz McKinnon says. “Pod School Prep is here to make sure that the people caring for our kids are ready to help them not just pass the time but make sure they learn, grow and thrive.”

About Pod School Prep: Pod School Prep (www.podschoolprep.com)​ is a comprehensive, online professional development program for Learning Pod Leaders.

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