Skip to content
CityLab
Culture

Silicon Valley Is Jumping on the Microschool Bandwagon

With schools in limbo, startups see a big market in helping parents organize learning pods and tutoring groups. Will some kids get left behind?

Parents weary of distance learning are trying to organize into pandemic-proof “learning pods.”

Parents weary of distance learning are trying to organize into pandemic-proof “learning pods.”

Photographer: Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post via Getty Images

When San Francisco Unified School District announced that fall classes would be virtual earlier this month, Jill Gilbert worried about her five-year-old son. He’d been having depressive episodes since he left preschool at the start of the pandemic, and she feared they’d only worsen if he entered kindergarten without peers. A single mom, she also wasn’t sure how she’d juggle remote schooling for such a young child with her full-time, work-from-home job. So she turned to the Internet for help.

There she found CareVillage, an online platform that aims to match families to share the Covid-19 child care load by sharing playdates, nannies, tutors, and other resources with households. Gilbert filled out the website’s brief descriptive survey, describing what she was looking for and rating herself a “5” on a 1-5 scale of how seriously she’s working to avoid infection. A nearby family with a five-year-old son was sent to her as a match: They hoped to form what the company calls a “SchoolPod” — that is, a pact to pool costs, space, and responsibilities for instructing their kids, while hewing to the same anti-virus precautions.