Article Update (2:12pm): I guess someone over at HCPSS heard about this and the school system has updated the webpage to say the following:

How can my child participate in a “pod” in our community?

“Pods,” organized by families, are small groups of students that come together each academic day either in a home or an outside location to facilitate learning.

HCPSS schools do not facilitate the development of pods.


Several organizations in Howard County offer services such as tutoring and other supports and resources for students and families. The HCPSS Community News and Programs page provides information about non-profit organizations that provide services to support families and students.

Original title of this article prior to the update: Howard County Public School System warns community that education “Pods” could be conducive to the spread of COVID-19 and delay an in-person return to school

I saw this and was surprised…and thought worth sharing to the community. The Howard County Public School system has this on their website on their upcoming school year help page:

How can my child participate in a “pod” in our community?

“Pods,” organized by families, are small groups of students that come together each academic day either in a home or an outside location to facilitate learning.

HCPSS schools do not facilitate the development of pods.

Parents/guardians should be aware that pod environments could be conducive to the spread of COVID-19 and thus further delay an in-person return to school. Additionally, equity is embedded into the HCPSS educational program, which provides solutions and resources that serve all students.

Several organizations in Howard County offer services such as tutoring and other supports and resources for students and families. The HCPSS Community News and Programs page provides information about non-profit organizations that provide services to support families and students.


For a while I have seen parents post online about setting up “pods” for learning this school year. With no in person learning opportunities for children for the first semester of this school year… this was not a big shock or surprise. Many parents want their kids to have interaction with other children this school year and are looking for those opportunities where possible given the world we live in right now.

I understand the description in the first paragraph from HCPSS…I understand the explanation that HCPSS is not running education pods this year…but it is that third paragraph that loses me. As opposed to providing guidance to parents that if “you choose to do this here are some guidelines to follow”…this looks like a straight up “if you do do this your kid might get COVID-19 and schools opening might be delayed” from our school system. That seems kind of wrong (to me).

I also understand the “equity” statement from the school system. I do not disagree with that statement. The school system should be looking into opportunities to enhance and expand equity opportunities for the children in our community. I am a little confused about that statement on this page. It feels like a “do not do this if everyone can not do it” kind of statement to the community.

I was happy to see the school system share resources for all parents in the community in that fourth paragraph.  I hope they are sending that information out regularly to the community in their mass emails.

Maybe I am way off the mark here…so…I am curious…what do you think about this from the school system? Let me know in the comments.

Scott E

Here is a screenshot for those needing to see what the page looked like the morning of August 20th:

Via Steven Keller on Howard County Neighbors United Group


  1. This is just another example of HCPSS and County Executive Ball providing future cover for themselves if things do not go well. They should be concentrating their efforts on opening schools safely and providing both the learning and interaction our children need. As if parents now need guidance from them on how to manage friendships and how our kids interact with other families. The leadership we have in this county continues to fail on all fronts, but maintain a schedule for photo ops during the covid crisis. Yet guidance from them indicates we should lock our kids away and have no interaction until they approve it. We need leadership, not politics.

  2. Howard County is all about equity… its nice in theory but in reality that is what stops us from getting things done.. “if we can’t all participate then we can’t do it”.. the bottom line is that some people are not waiting around for this and many parents are concerned with the level of online learning.. its likely to go on this whole school year since our Gov’t is not really helping stamp out the virus. Yes its the people who have money who will do the “pods”.. but I don’t think it will delay our getting back to in person school.. it just makes the system look bad as they are stumbling with online learning.

    • Just an FYI…..ALL school systems in ALL states are stumbling with the expensive online “learning”. The kids aren’t happy and the teachers aren’t happy, but the Billionaire Tech Lords raking in the $$$$$ are very happy. Many parents (and admin) here in HoCo have been pushing for blended/personalized online “learning” for years and now that they have it, they have found that it just doesn’t work and the kids absolutely hate it. The “digital natives” don’t like the digital stuff….who da thunk it? People should be careful what they wish for because they just might get it.

  3. If parents are intent on homeschooling or attempting to “pod” their children, they have to file paper work with the school system so that schools know the # of children that will be enrolled in classrooms. The school system gets money from the County, State and Fed Gov’t per child enrolled in public school. I don’t know when/how (mid fall?) money is dispersed . What will happen is that after money is distributed and allocated, schools will then fully open and parents will abandon the homeschooling or “pods” and then reenroll their children back into the system. Public school systems are not allowed to deny a child a public education so all the children will be let back into the system. Now there will be a huge resource and or teacher shortage. The school system knows that this will happen and they are trying to ward off future and foreseen problems down the road. Exceptionalism at its best here in HoCo….it’s all about the “ME!” and forget about the “WE”.

    • With the pods I have seen advertised it is a daycare solution rather than a homeschooling solution. They offer to provide a location and keep students on task for the HCPSS virtual activities. This shouldn’t impact the schools enrollment or funding.

      • So the neighborhood babysitter with super duper WiFi. Oh my! At least the school system won’t loose funding.

    • I guess the children in ‘pods’ will be moving forward in their education. And, children not in ‘pods’, are they falling behind???

      How is the board going to level the educational playing field for HoCo children and also prevent the hollering of ‘privilege’ ??

  4. It is worth pointing out, no one has validated solutions for mitigating the risks of COVID in a school. A bunch of places are trying various things, but no one knows what will actually work. At most I would expect HCPSS to provide a link to the health department rather than risk providing bad advice.

    Similarly, the equity line is probably a reference to the multiple expensive law suits that they would probably lose if they offered instruction that wasn’t uniformly accessible. This is most likely the reason that teachers were prohibited from providing new instruction in the spring. They had no way to meet the documented special needs requirements of their students.

  5. The public school system has declared itself nonessential and parents are going to find other ways to educate their kids. You cannot refuse to provide a service for a year and expect your customers to sit around and wait for you.

  6. Zach’s comment was very pithy. “POD environments could be conducive to the spread of COVID-19 and may not provide equity.” How would they ever know? What a shot from the hip.

    The subtext is this: We suggest you be afraid of everything, even the things you control. And whatever you do, we implore you, do not accidentally find out you can do a better job than the school system – a better job keeping kids safe and a better job teaching the disadvantaged.

  7. Parents need to work. This is not sustainable for working families when schools are all virtual. How is it any of their business if pods containing limited contacts are created?

  8. HCPSS made the decision to keep kids out of the buildings until at least January, and regardless of whether or not I agree with the decision, I can respect it. I do however feel that a parent has the right to decide how there child will learn and socialize during the next several months. The school system can’t expect to control a families decision to allow their child to gather in small groups with friends. Kids have been attending camps and participating in sports this summer. Stores, restaurants, and bars are open to customers. I don’t feel that it is fair that the school system expects parents to lock their kids up until January. Based off their support of mental health the past few years you would think they would want kids to socialize and feel some sense of normalcy. Due to the fact that students are not in the building getting in person support from their teachers, there will be students at disadvantages during this time. And yes, the argument can be made that only students with financial means will have the “pod” opportunity, but a small group of friends can gather with the support of parents without there being cost associated. Even then, there will be kids with less opportunities, but at the end of the day if I can provide my child with a “pod” opportunity I will.

  9. The school system is right to caution about ‘PODS.’ While some families will choose or need to compromise around their own risk profile, the school system would be stepping out of bounds by facilitating or guiding the public about a way to compromise on a family’s risk profile.

    It would be within bounds of the county or state public health system to give suggestions about how to safely set up a ‘pod,’ but the schools are right to simply note that if we don’t get the virus under control then we will continue to delay being able to return to school in person. The schools are not public health officials and should not make recommendations on individual family behavior beyond very limited observations (e.g. continued community spread, especially among children will have adverse return to school impacts and any pod or group arrangement increases the family risk surface and community spread, this is plain and simple—it is wishful thinking to imagine otherwise).

  10. Well, I’ll be the lone former teacher who WAS considering helping teach a pod. With what is going on in our country in regard to Covid-19, I have changed my mind, for now. If I am working at a home with two children, with 2 parents who work outside of the home, I’m exposed to everyone they are exposed to. Then add in perhaps two other children from two other families, whose parents also work out of the home. I would be with them every day, with the risk of exposure pretty darn high. Even with masks, it will be difficult to teach, to hear, to lean in and help my students.. I’ve stayed healthy up to now. I’m not willing to take the risk of death or illness, at this point. Nor is it smart to let this pandemic not ever end. I agree about elitism innate in most pods, though I admire any parent concerned about their child’s education. If school is to open any time soon, giving Covid the chance to keep spreading is NOT the way to proceed. School politics aside, the end goal is to get back to normal, not possibly delaying it. I do not have an answer for working parents, but I am pretty sure teaching pods are not the ideal choice to allow schools to reopen in the most timely way. I have a family, too. I love teaching, want to teach, but our lives matter more, in my opinion.

  11. Predictably, the first comment on this post was politically charged rather than rational. I like to believe that I live in one of the more enlightened counties in the state, and, generally, we are – but there are always the folks around here that are “it’s all about me, me, me” rather than the good of the larger populace. *sigh*

    I get that the school system has been perceived as just daycare for some folks, and some folks can’t return to work without a way to have their kids watched over. I get that the economy can’t come close to returning to normal without folks returning to work. What I don’t get is how people are willing to risk other children’s lives (and, sometimes, their own children’s lives) by doing this “return to school” thing. Thankfully, we seem to be over that for the moment.

    “Pods” may be a short term event, and they may throw the equity out of alignment – as do many other things, including individual participation, whether parents are willing to pay for tutors, how much time a parent (or pay someone else to) maintain attention to their child’s learning. While I don’t like the concept, the folks that have the resources to supplement their child’s income have always had the ability to help move it along – I think this is merely another manifestation of the same situation.

  12. From a medical perspective, one is not doing yourself,your child or anyone you come into contact with a favor with the initiation of pods. Community spread is real and so is flattening the curve, particularly with a virulant flu strain in the mix later this Fall. For some, this is the first sacrifice you’ve been asked to make for your country in your lifetime. Others have gone to war, survived a depression, campaigned for civil rights. Are you up to your sacrifice of keeping yourself, your family and your community safe so we all can return to nomal sooner than later? That is now in your hands with the decisions you make.

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