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As Colorado schools open for the 2020-2021 academic year, many parents are scrambling to accommodate online learning in the home by creating a “pandemic pod” with other families. The “pod” (or pandemic pod, or learning pod, or micro-school) is a small group of students learning together in a home for academic, social, and other childcare-related reasons when learning in person isn’t an option.
Online groups and support for families are popping up everywhere, from Facebook to dedicated websites, and much is being written in the national and local news about how to form pods, connect with other families, and hire private instructors. Still, more has been written on the concerns that pod learning will exacerbate long-standing equity gaps created by income, race and geography.
Very little information exists, however, to help families understand the legal and insurance ramifications of setting up a pandemic pod in your home.
And there is a host of legal and insurance issues for families to consider. For example, families who host activities at their home might be liable for COVID or non-COVID injuries, or even acts of their minor children. Families will need to come to a consensus about childcare laws, what to do if someone tests positive for COVID, the federal, state, and local social distancing, gathering, and emergency orders and laws, and so forth.
Open Space Mediation and Hanning Law Limited suggest parents who are considering forming a learning pod with other families have a very clear understanding with each other about all of these issues. Having conversations with tax advisors and insurance providers, reviewing local laws, and writing up a formal agreement with each other early in the process can help avoid potential problems down the road, legal and otherwise.
No agreement, oral or written, is ever entirely watertight. Making sure everyone is on the same page with these, and other, issues will at the very least help mitigate some confusion moving forward. No one knows what the rest of the academic year is going to look like, but one thing is for sure: moving your family through uncharted territory is always easier with clear communication, contingency plans, and a road map.
Liz Merrill is the owner of Open Space Mediation. She is a mother and a mediator based in Fort Collins and can be found at www.openspacemediation.com.
Hanning Law Limited can be found at http://www.thatdamnlawyer.com/.