Local businesses, organizations create pod spots for distance learning | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Local businesses, organizations create pod spots for distance learning

Cheyanne Neuffer

Due to the pandemic, many kids are being educated through distance learning. For parents who work full time, this puts a new pressure on family dynamics and work schedules. Both parents and kids are learning how to navigate this new way of life.

Some businesses and organizations around Lake Tahoe saw this as an opportunity to help out the community by offering classes or even just space for kids to study and learn with their ‘learning pods’ or ‘pandemic pods.’

OMNI Yoga owner Jessica Broyles wanted to offer her community an outlet for kids and parents. Omni Yoga offers private pod classes at The Hangar in South Lake Tahoe. Broyles wanted to create a safe space of creativity for kids in the pods by offering a variety of different classes guided by a pod leader. Omni wants to provide parents and kids the opportunity to practice yoga, dance, art, crafts, music, reading, or even just time to play outdoors in a safe setting.

She said that she is going to keep track with the school district, but will be providing one-hour sessions daily, bi-weekly, or weekly pods with up to 15 students per session. Based on the requests of the pod and parents, each class will have a different goal with a different curriculum,” she said. “There will be room for storytime, yoga, books, cards or whatever the interest may be. It’s a great alternative to get them out of the house.”

The classes are twice a week for five weeks.

While the first session was set to start Tuesday, Sept. 8 and last through Oct. 9, she said they will reevaluate operations once the weather changes and have to move indoors. Broyles was inspired to create this space after hearing some of the struggles from friends who are parents. She wanted to help and thought this would give parents a much needed relief, even just so parents can get a cup of coffee in peace. Omni Yoga’s studio has been almost completely shut down since March, so workout classes have also been moved outdoors at The Hangar. The pods will have a blocked off area, big enough for ample social distancing.

Broyles is open to suggestions and feedback and will reassess the situation moving forward. Classes would start as early as 9 a.m. and go until 1:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Broyles said they want any kids to be included and they are flexible with low-income families. For more information, email Omnitahoe@gmail.com.

Zephyr Point and Conference Center is also offering educational opportunities for families navigating distance learning. Starting Monday, Sept. 14, the first program will offer academic support, outdoor education, games, crafts for kids in first to fifth grades. They have half-time, part-time, and full-time options for each pod. The goal is to offer childcare, tutoring and learning in a lakefront setting.

“We wanted to see what could benefit Zephyr Point, but also the community,” Kerri Wasko, Youth Ministry Program Coordinator for Zephyr Point. She said that like many nonprofits, Zephyr Point has also been feeling the financial effects of the pandemic. They tried running a daycamp, but realized they needed to configure something more geared for distance learning.

Each pod will have a leader or tutor who are young adults that might have graduated college or are still in college whose degrees are aimed at elementary education. Each of the leaders go through a tutor certification process. Since many schools are requiring different goals for students the leaders will be there to make sure each student can effectively complete school work provided by the district or student check-ins through Zoom.

“We hope this is something beneficial, we want to be more involved in the community,” Wasko said.

Zephyr Point plans to include different elements like bringing in outdoor education, backpacking tips and even include kayaking or snowshoeing when weather permitting.

Wasko said that Zephyr Point will offer what parents are requesting and are willing to adapt to student needs. Cost will be based on pod size. For families who can’t afford the cost, scholarships are available.

“Thankfully, we can use the scholarship fund to help cover the cost of this educational experience,” Wasko said. She is passionate about making classes as inclusive as possible by offering affordable options for families in need. For more information, visit http://www.zephyrpoint.org.

The Tahoe Beach Retreat in South Lake Tahoe is also stepping up to offer space to distance learners who are with traveling parents. According to Drew Phillips, director of sales and marketing of The Beach Retreat, they plan to dedicate empty office spaces to kids who need a “clean, quiet and sanitized space for distant learning.”

From 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., students can take over the study space. While this space is reserved for guests, Phillips hopes this provides an beneficial outlet for parents and students who are traveling through the area.

On Sept. 8, the council voted to allow the Boys and Girls Club of Lake Tahoe to temporarily use the recreation center to house more students while schools are instructing remotely.

While BGCLT is currently booked through Phase 1, they have learning pods with pod leaders. After the council decision they will now be able to watch 60 more students during the day. As the school district moves through the phases to returning to standard learning, BGCLT will also be adjusting their schedule until they return to normal operations and will no longer need the recreation center.

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