Group of McKinney parents pool together to hire a teacher for help with virtual learning

With many school districts continuing with remote learning some families are pooling together their money to pay for a teacher to help out their kids.

Homes across Texas are turning into home schools as students learn online.

“We have high schoolers upstairs, and then we have the four kids that will be downstairs,” said parent Christie Schoonover. “And I don’t know where they’ll be. Just wherever they can find a quiet spot.”

Christie Schoonover and two other families in McKinney ISD have pooled their money to hire a certified teacher to form a “pod,” in which Jennifer Barrett, who would otherwise be working as a substitute teacher, will guide their children through their virtual school days.

“It’s difficult. It’s definitely challenging,” Barrett said.

Third grader Jackson had eight different video conference logins Thursday on his Wilmeth Elementary School schedule. Navigating that, in itself, is difficult.

“And he’s a great kid, and he’s very smart and listening,” Barrett said. “But he’s 7. So a lot of energy and hard to stay focused.”

Down the hall, Jackson’s mom is running her business from home.

“This morning I was making coffee and the teacher made a comment, ‘Go to a quieter space,’” Schoonover said. “I’m like, ‘Where are you going to go?’”

Although at-home learning is tough for families regardless, Schoonover is acutely aware of her privilege of the luxury of being able to hire a teacher and living in a house with space to spread out.

Affording a teacher for a “learning pod” isn’t realistic on a lot of budgets.

Barrett does not lead the lessons. Instead, she is mostly making sure the students stay on track and can even just get logged in to the classrooms.

Family psychologist Susan Fletcher says hiring a teacher and forming a pod is a solution, but it, too, has its own complications.

“Already, a lot of parents have to work from home, try to manage their children and try to deal with their responsibilities,” Fletcher said. “And then you have the added factor of trying to organize a classroom that you’re attempting to develop a culture of a school with small children, and that could be intrusive.”

“It’s not easy for anyone,” Schoonover said.