Back to school: faced with uncertainty, parents organize micro-schools

In a press conference on Thursday, the President of the United States, Donald Trump, again called for the reopening of schools, despite the many cases of COVID – 24. In the face of uncertainty, parents begin to organize to offer home education in small groups.

JanieGosselin Janie Gosselin

La Presse

With 11 Weeks of virtual school meetings, the McCabe family of Connecticut made themselves some fictional “McCabe Elementary School” t-shirts, for fun. But with the approach of another school year disrupted by COVID – 14, the worry took over.

“My husband and I are telecommuting,” explains Katie McCabe, in marketing. I had set up a folding table next to me. I was trying to make my teleconferences while supervising my children in their tasks… “A difficult reconciliation. Her youngest, Amy, is 6 years old and was in kindergarten. Adam, 9, is due to start his fourth year.


The McCabe Family

In his region, we do not yet know what form the re-entry will take. Classes, full-time or part-time, are recommended. It is by reading an article on the school “capsules” – of pods, in English – that the parents decided to hire a certified home teacher.


These capsules plan to bring together a few children, always the same, to recreate a class, in a home or outside. A teacher or tutor is responsible for giving the lessons, which can be full-time or in addition to virtual and in-person lessons.

The principle of capsules or micro-schools seems to have gained popularity in the United States. By creating his Facebook group Pandemic Pods with a friend less than a month ago, Lian Chikako Chang had underestimated the thirst for information on the subject: the private group had more than 33 00 0 subscribers.

“The main questions are on logistics, how to create a capsule, organize oneself with timetables, legal questions, what is possible, health questions”, summarizes the woman from San Francisco, who lived for several years in Montreal.

The page does not provide legal advice, but helps parents navigate this new reality, made more complex by the differences between states, and discuss their solutions and their concerns.

If she welcomes the many exchanges, she deplores the void left by the government.

We are devastated that our young Facebook page is the place where people across the country come together because they urgently need to make plans for the next school year.

Lian Chikako Chang


The craze for private home education is criticized; many fear that they will reinforce the inequalities between the richest, who can afford private lessons, and the poorest, forced to go to class or take the curriculum alone, imperfectly, online .

Mrs Chang says she is aware of this risk, but points out that “disparities in wealth and access were already huge in the United States before COVID – 19 ”. She also hopes that the group's discussions, which are sometimes very critical of the idea of ​​capsules, will lead to “solutions for greater equity”.

Specialized companies charge a price that is inaccessible for many families, confides Katie McCabe, advancing the sum of more than 33 000 $ 0 requested per year for her two children.

Finally, she herself found a qualified teacher, not attached to a school, for 100 $ per child per week. A sum comparable to summer camps in her city, she points out.

The family said they were ready to increase the amount for the sake of the children, but also for career reasons. “As a woman, I felt that if I retired from the workforce for a while, the cost in the long run would be higher,” she says.

Mrs McCabe is now trying to find a friend or two for each of his children to join the capsule. “We have to come to an understanding with other parents, that we all commit to following the same rules: do not go out without a mask, do not take part in gatherings, do not travel outside the State , she lists. They will be in our circle of trust, like family members. “Classes will be held outdoors whenever possible.

She does not rule out sending her children to school after Christmas, but fears for now both upheaval and transmission of the virus. “[Les autorités] Said that as soon as there is someone with symptoms of COVID – 14, they will close for at least two to five days, she says. With 924 students, what are the chances that none of them have a cough one day or another? I had to find a more stable solution. “

Home teaching in Quebec

In Quebec, the date of 1 er July is set so that parents who wish to be homeschooled can provide written notice – although in effect a child may be removed school at any time during the school year, with a notice within 08 days. As of 24 July 2020, we counted 5782 children declared in home education for the school year 2019-2021, against 5964 for the year 2019 – 2020, according to figures provided by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education.