Houston teachers exploring 'learning pods' as back-to-school option

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- There's an online trend that's growing on social media as parents continue to weigh their options for their child's return to school.

The idea is simple: have a teacher, tutor or parent monitor a small group of students while they do their school work and interact with others. They're calling it "learning pods."

"Some kids just genuinely learn better with just a physical presence with someone there, so I understand that it would be preferential for some people," Jessica Ronnau said.

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Ronnau is a math teacher at Northside High School in HISD.

Her subject is one of those that is best learned with in-person interaction, but she gets it. Health comes first.

"I think HISD made the right call, and honestly, I feel safer myself," she continued.

Meanwhile, an economist at Brown University predicts clusters of home-schooling families are going to "happen everywhere."

A Facebook group called "Pandemic pods and microschools" has already garnered dozens of members in the Houston chapter.

READ ALSO: Very few Americans back full school reopening: AP-NORC poll

The Harris County Department of Education said when it comes to younger students, such as three, four and 5-year-olds, it's going to require some leg work.

"This is a partnership between the teachers and the parents," said Lydia Zatopek with Harris County Department of Education. "The teachers will be providing tools for the parents they can take and then use at home while at the same time there is some face time at home."

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Texas, districts are having to adjust.

Ronnau said her students use Microsoft Teams to have the ability for more focused learning, if required.

She thinks this is safer than outside families trying to blend children outside of their household right now.

"We can use breakout rooms and channels, so you can meet as a whole in a classroom, then use breakout rooms, you know, this kid needs help with Pythagorean theorem. It's definitely going to be more work for the teacher, but at the end of the day, we need to make sure our kids are still learning," she said.

Ronnau also said that each child learns differently and that online-only learning is difficult for some.

She still encourages her colleagues and parents to roll up their sleeves and do the best they can under the circumstances.

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