Oakland elementary school principals come out against 'pandemic pods'

A group of Oakland elementary school principals wrote an open letter discouraging families from creating 'pandemic pods' as the school year is set to start next month completely online.

The principals wrote that they realize these are "extraordinary" times, but that creating in-person pods can create safety concerns, as well as exacerbate inequities between those who can afford to hire a private teacher and those who cannot.

Their letter comes after parents have been writing to principals asking for their children to be assigned to their teachers based on their own pod groupings." 

Therefore, the principals wrote, at least the following OUSD schools will not be honoring requests to place students in classes together based on pandemic pods or teacher preference:  Montclair, Chabot, Sequoia, Joaquin Miller, Thornhill, Glenview, Sankofa United, Emerson, Peralta, Melrose Leadership, Crocker Highlands, Redwood Heights, Hillcrest K-8, and Laurel Elementary.

As Californians look to school, some families form 'pandemic pods;' others struggle for WiFi

Parents have been reposting this letter in Facebook groups called "Pandemic Pods -Oakland" and "Pandemic Pods - Piedmont," where families have been networking to create their own backyard schoolyards with typically six students or less and who would theoretically be taught by a parent, graduate student or retired teacher. Some of the prices range between $60 to $100 an hour to hire these educators, according to the posts. The parents felt that distance learning in the spring was abysmal and they don't see how their children, especially younger ones, can sit in front of a computer all day learning on Zoom without human interaction. 

The reaction on Facebook was mixed, but many were opposed to the district's tone.  

One woman wrote that she still wants to create her own pod in Montclair but wants to help "mitigate" the "inequality issue," although she wasn't specific on how.

Another woman mocked the letter, writing tongue in cheek:  "We recognize it is a problem for you, but we will not actually help you solve the issue of needing to work while your kids are in school and we plan to make it harder by not considering your requests to keep kid pods together." 

And a third mother wrote that she felt the letter was "completely patronizing."

"Districts, don't shame parents!" she wrote.  

David Castillo, a parent at Joaquin Miller Elementary, said he agreed with the principals' sentiments, but the lack of information regarding instruction, scheduling and how students will be supported by the district leaves much room for insecurity. The union and the district have been bargaining for weeks, and school is set to start in less than three weeks. His plan is to pod with cousins and he'll serve as the de facto tutor a few days a week, guiding the kids on their lessons and taking them outdoors for activity. 

"Either provide information or expect pods," he said. "Can’t have it both ways."

Lisa Fernandez is a reporter for KTVU. Email Lisa at lisa.fernandez@foxtv.com or call her at (510) 874-0139. Or follow her on Twitter @ljfernandez.

Read the entire letter in English and Spanish:


All of us at OUSD recognize that these are extraordinary times for education.  We acknowledge the tremendous burden put on working families when your children are not able to attend “brick and mortar” schools.  Although we appreciate parent resourcefulness in creating small “pandemic pods” to help manage the demands of this time, we do have some concerns.

First and foremost, is the health and safety of all our students and families.  Health professionals have cautioned us all to limit in person interactions, wear masks, and keep six feet distance.  For more information on social bubbles from a doctor/parent, please click here.

Additionally, we are asking those families involved with this podding to please be mindful that some families may not have the resources, be in a position or feel comfortable, or have not been invited to form a pod, and that this may cause feelings of exclusion, especially for kids who may see or hear of their peers congregating and learning together while they remain isolated.  We encourage families to be sensitive to these circumstances.  

In many ways, this idea of podding is a creative solution to an impossible situation.  At the same time, the formation of these groups holds the risk of exacerbating educational inequities throughout our country - see this article from the New York Times.

At all of our schools, ensuring welcoming, inclusive classrooms is our primary goal.  Considerable time and effort was spent creating balanced classes for the 20-21 school year. Grade level teams will be collaborating regularly to ensure their instructional programming is similar across classrooms.   

Therefore, at least the following OUSD schools will not be honoring requests to place students in classes together based on pandemic pods or teacher preference:  Montclair, Chabot, Sequoia, Joaquin Miller, Thornhill, Glenview, Sankofa United, Emerson, Peralta, Melrose Leadership, Crocker Highlands, Redwood Heights, Hillcrest K-8, and Laurel Elementary.

Thank you in advance for your understanding of this decision.  We look forward to partnering with our families to ensure a successful year for all students!


Todos en OUSD reconocemos que estos son tiempos extraordinarios para la educación. Reconocemos la tremenda carga que cae sobre las familias que trabajan cuando sus hijos no pueden asistir a escuelas "físicas". Aunque apreciamos el ingenio de los padres en la creación de pequeñas "cápsulas pandémicas" para ayudar a manejar las demandas de este momento, tenemos algunas preocupaciones.

Principalmente, tenemos que tomar en cuenta la salud y seguridad de todos nuestros estudiantes y familias. Los profesionales de la salud nos han advertido a todos que debemos limitar las interacciones personales, usar mascarillas y mantener una distancia de seis pies. Para obtener más información sobre las burbujas sociales de un médico / padre, haga clic aquí.

Además, pedimos a las familias involucradas con este grupo que tengan en cuenta que algunas familias pueden no tener los recursos, estar en una posición o sentirse cómodos, o no haber sido invitados a formar un grupo, y que esto puede causar sentimientos de exclusión , especialmente para los niños que pueden ver o escuchar a sus compañeros reunirse y aprender juntos mientras otros permanecen aislados. Alentamos a las familias a ser sensibles a estas circunstancias. En muchos sentidos, esta idea de “podding” es una solución creativa para una situación imposible. Al mismo tiempo, la formación de estos grupos conlleva el riesgo de exacerbar las desigualdades educativas en todo nuestro país. Para aprender más, pueden leer  este artículo del New York Times.

En todas nuestras escuelas, nuestro objetivo principal es garantizar aulas acogedoras e inclusivas. Se dedicó mucho tiempo y esfuerzo en crear clases equilibradas para el año escolar 20-21. Los equipos de nivel de grado colaborarán regularmente para garantizar que su programación educativa sea similar en todas las aulas.  Por lo tanto, al menos las siguientes escuelas de OUSD no cumplirán con las solicitudes de colocar a los estudiantes en clases juntas en base a grupos de pandemia o preferencia de maestros:  Montclair, Chabot, Sequoia, Joaquin Miller, Thornhill, Glenview, Sankofa United, Emerson, Peralta, Melrose Leadership, Crocker Highlands, Redwood Heights, Hillcrest K-8 y Laurel Elementary.

Gracias de antemano por su comprensión de esta decisión. ¡Esperamos asociarnos con nuestras familias para garantizar un año exitoso para todos los estudiantes!