LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Learning pods and micro schools are growing in popularity as campuses across California start the fall semester fully remote, but experts say parents should know the legal liability before starting one.
Karri-Leigh Mastrangelo, a mother of two, is one of the many parents who have decided to form a learning pod for their children.
“We are probably looking at having five to seven kids with one teacher,” she said.
Mastrangelo, who will be hosting the pod at her home, said it was crucial to her for all of the families involved to sign an agreement.
“A code for the pod,” she said. “Guidelines that everyone would have to sign off on and agree upon.”
And the move is a smart one, according to business attorney Natela Shenon who said forming a pod can expose families — especially those hosting — to several liabilities both obvious and not.
“Someone’s on your property, and they get hurt,” she said. “There’s also the risk of getting coronavirus.”
There are also issues of fit or illness.
“What if one of the kids is not thriving and doesn’t like the tutor,” she said. “What happens if one of the kids gets sick and then they can’t attend, let’s say, for two weeks. Does that family still have to pay?”
And as for the tutor or teacher, Shenon said families should have a contract with that person that not only outlines hours and pay, but also what personal protective equipment will be used and how careful the families want the person to be in their personal life.
She also said families should sign a liability waiver.
“Basically saying, ‘We know what we’re getting ourselves into. We’re assuming the risk. We know that there is a risk of coronavirus,'” she said.
And, if a family wants to host a pod without assuming the risks, there are now companies that will do it for them.
“It takes a lot of work,” Naomi Leight-Giveon, who founded PodSkool with her husband, said. “You need to know what you’re doing, and most parents, I think, don’t know that you need all of these things in place in order to safely operate a pod.”
According to Leight-Giveon, PodSkool was founded in an effort to make learning pod education safer and easier for parents by assuming all of the risk and liability. The program will run parents anywhere from $13-$22 per hour per child.
“We handle everything,” she said.
And while PodSkool handles the education part of the learning pod, Leight-Giveon said parents still have to be involved in the process.
“If you are operating in your home and there isn’t one parent on-site from the pod, you’re technically operating an illegal childcare facility,” she said.
There have been posts circulating on social media that claim the state’s gig worker law, AB5, makes it illegal to hire a tutor in California, but experts said that is not true as long as the tutor comes to the home for a few hours per day and does not also provide childcare.