With many students going all remote to start the school year, working parents need help keeping their kids engaged and supervised. Danny Franke of Sportika thinks he has a solution, and it’s one that’s growing in popularity. He’s transforming the 170,000 square foot indoor sports facility into a MicroPod, or a location for clusters of children ages seven through 12 to receive professional instruction.
“We’ve used this room for a yoga class, we’ve used this room for yoga and now it’s a classroom,” Franke said. “There’s an arm on this thermometer gate, they’ll put their forehead close to the arm and that’s going to tell them if they pass or fail and then they walk through. We have cleaning type of supplies like wipes to continue wiping down the tables. We have a hand sanitizer station here and then signage about washing your hands, etc., that would be reinforced in the building.”
Each MicroPod with have a max of eight students and one instructor, where Franke says they can learn for about six hours and parents will have the option to choose from three packages.
“Depending on the program you choose, the brainstorm is more to help kids academically. They’re going to be there assisting them, giving them resources to go with the courses. The monitor program is more just keeping them on task, not really going to be content related. It’s just to assure that the kid has some place to be with adult supervision and make sure they complete the task they need to,” Franke said. “Then we have our ultimate Sportika experience. After the kid is done at 12:30 p.m., most parents are still at work, they sign up for that second half of the day, we are going to keep them in those small groups and we are going to organize games and we are going to do arts and crafts and we are going to try and give them the overall school experience.”
Dina Bolan is a parent and 3rd grade teacher in Bergen County who wanted to help parents find local MicroPods for their children, but cautions that it can come with a pricetag.
“What I’ve noticed the main pattern is that is definitely working parents who need someone to work with their child when they’re working from home mostly,” Bolan said. “Educators start with hire hourly rate which is $60 an hour. So four hours a day, five days a week is not affordable.”
Which is why teachers like Lynn Tretola and Tia Rendine, who have small children, decided to step up and become the instructors themselves and teach out of their homes.
“With the toddler learning pods, I am not looking to make money from it, it’s whats best for my daughter and great for other kids,” Rendine said. “I am opening my home and wanting my daughter to get socialization and structured play and because I have the experience and I am a mom, I am willing to do that without being paid.”
“The pod itself will take place outdoors the entire time,” Tretola said. “After doing a lot of research and dealing with my own guilt and leaving work and setting up a pod and having this for my son, I decided not to take any fees whatsoever.”
Almost everyone agreed that if any child showed symptoms of COVID, they would be asked to quarantine and leave the pod. All the moms agreed, that the key to a healthy pod is making sure all participants continue to take precaution outside of their private classrooms.