Free-Range Kids

Pennsylvania Reminds Parents That Learning Pods Must Have an Evacuation Plan

"My daughter can have five friends over for a sleepover without my being fingerprinted and federally background-checked."


Pennsylvania parents thinking of starting a learning pod for their children should prepare to jump through quite a few bureaucratic hoops.

The state Department of Human Services' Office of Child Development and Early Learning announced on August 26—the day school was set to begin—that families with kids attending public school cannot form a learning pod of six or more unrelated students unless the parents do all of the following:

1. Develop a COVID-19 health and safety plan that aligns with with state and CDC guidelines.

2. Develop an evacuation plan in the event of an emergency.

3. Check with local zoning zoning ordinances in case residential childcare is prohibited.

4. Ensure that every space where the pod gathers has a functional fire detection system.

5. Ensure compliance with child protective services, and make sure anyone working with or supervising children undergoes a background check.

6. Make clear to all adults in the pod who supervise children that they are mandatory child abuse reporters and must alert the authorities if they suspect anything is amiss.

7.  Fill out the department's online forms, which state that in the event of an investigation, parents must "provide access to DHS personnel who arrive at the service location and present a Commonwealth-issued ID badge."

Surely it's a snap for you to develop a health and safety plan aligned with CDC guidelines? Here they are. Note, for instance, on page 10, that if one of the kids tests positive for COVID-19, your job would then be to "determine if, when, and for how long part or all of a school should be closed." K-12 administrators can also refer to CDC's Interim Considerations for K-12 for School Administrators for SARS-CoV-2 Testing, which provides additional information about viral diagnostic testing. See? A snap!

Intriguingly, these newly sprouted regulations apply only to learning pods. As Theresa O'Brien, mom of an eighth grader in Bethlehem Township, tells Reason, "My daughter can have five friends over for a sleepover without my being fingerprinted and federally background-checked. I also don't have to provide her friends' parents with an evacuation plan or notify the state government that non-relatives are in my house overnight." Nor would O'Brien be compelled to open her home to a government official who arrived without a warrant—but with his work ID—if she was just hosting Thanksgiving dinner.

The pod rules don't apply to homeschoolers, either. But in reality, it's the parents who had hoped to send the kids to school this year who need pods the most, and they're the ones getting walloped by these regulations. For instance, in O'Brien's district, the schools had announced they would be opening this fall, full time, five days a week, for kindergarten through fifth grade. But then, sometime in mid-summer, the plans changed and now the schools are offering students a two-day-a-week plan, or an all-virtual option.

When you've suddenly got your kids home for three or five days a week, you scramble to make something work. But while "well-off families may have the resources and time to comply with the regulations, or limit the pod," says Corey DeAngelis, director of school choice for the Reason Foundation, those less flush may need six or more parents to share the cost of a tutor.

Speaking of cost, the required background checks are $52, says O'Brien. After calling around, she discovered that most of the places that perform these checks are closed—for COVID-19.

My guess is that the majority of pod people will claim to be party people who are just inviting six to 12 kids over for fun and snacks. If they happen to learn some algebra along the way, so be it.

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  1. Then don’t have a learning pod. Just have everyone hanging out in the same place while they do their online school BS.

    1. Or un-enroll them from public school and these goons lose all their authority over your kid.

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  2. I had no idea what a Leaning Pod was until I read the article.

    1. It’s learning pod, and it’s not capitalized.

      1. It’s not leaning, either.

      2. It’s a Leaning Pod in the headline (still), and it doesn’t sound safe at all. No wonder the state wants it to have an evacuation plan.

    2. I can understand typos in the middle of an article. But in the headline? That’s high school newspaper stuff.

  3. You’re only allowed to give your kids an alternative to a public school education as long as it’s exactly the same as a public school education.

    1. public school education

      government schooling

      1. government indoctrination

  4. “Develop a COVID-19 health and safety plan that aligns with with state and CDC guidelines.”

    Fortunately, that is now unconstitutional.

  5. The pod rules don’t apply to homeschoolers, either.

    Which means they don’t apply to ‘pods’ either. The fact is that just because a state agency sends out a demand on letterhead doesn’t mean they have the authority to make that demand.

  6. I see an opportunity for a crafty entrepreneur in “learning pod administrative consultation”.

    Step one: write “go fuck yourselves” on all department forms, permits, and applications.

    Step two: teach your kids however you want.

  7. “My daughter can have five friends over for a sleepover without my being fingerprinted and federally background-checked. I also don’t have to provide her friends’ parents with an evacuation plan or notify the state government that non-relatives are in my house overnight.”

    Oh we’ll get around to that, Tesa, just you wait.

    1. I heard Los Angeles is planning to cut power and water to people that host sleepovers

      1. Except for those who get their power cut because the state of California is run by democratic idiots.

      2. Unless it’s hosted by Nancy Pelosi, in which case how can anyone expect her to keep track of all these rules? It’s not like the law is her living or anything.

      3. And the landlords are evil capitalists if they cut the power of people that haven’t paid rent in 5 months

        1. No, they’re incompetent capitalists if they wait five months.

    2. sounds like a human trafficking ring

    3. North Korean defector Yeonmi Park has said that, in North Korea, if you want to spend the night in a home other than your own, you have to fill out paperwork and get permission from the local government authority.

      1. What would you have instead? Chaos? Anarchy?

  8. It’s going to continue to get worse; that is what administrative bureaucracies do, especially when charged with “it’s for the children.” And how else will these people justify themselves and their budgets if they don’t increasingly fuck with you, more than they did the year before?

  9. It is quite possible that these policies are not legal but this is what will happen, someone will report the Pod group to the authorities, someone will show up at their door with a cease and desist order and I am guessing a big fine. If they have the money they can fight it but most will just knuckle under as the State has unlimited resources and parents do not. It will be couched as for child safety of course and would drag on in the courts for years if they choose to fight it. This is how they keep anything from changing, watch Waiting for Superman if you want to see how it is done.

    1. A cease and desist order and a big fine? No, they show up with CPS and threaten to take your kids.

      1. And you call the cops about an attempted kidnapping by sex traffickers posing as CPS officials, but no paperwork. Mention you think one of them has a gun.

      2. What kids? There are no kids here.

      3. Get your kids fake adult ID as midgets.

        1. They can also go buy beer for you if you do this. It’s all upside, really.

      4. Hang the CPS goon from the nearest vertical structure with a “human trafficker” sign stapled to the corpse.

    2. NextDoor was made for nannies.
      if you see something, report your neighbors. for the children.

  10. We must do everything to complicate learning pods, before parents realize they might not need public schools after all!

  11. How does this article reconcile with the PA Supreme Court decision? Are these requirements not part of the executive orders?

    1. Unrelated. Another lawsuit will be required.
      Of course, I would just put each group of five kids into a different pod, and carry on.
      (Wait, is five still less than six? I can’t keep up with all the PC changes to math.)

  12. The public school teachers unions are to blame. They bully local and state politicians into these type of aggressive tactics towards people that dare find an alternate to the public schools. It’s become obvious that teachers unions care little about teaching kids, it’s all about collecting dues and not losing members. People need to abandon the public school system ASAP.

    1. They don’t want any kids to take the learning pods challenge.

      1. Is he supposed to foam around the mouth like that?

    2. We have a winner!!!!!

  13. So, basically, the state is ‘hiring’ parents to do their jobs for them for free but the administrators and teachers are still going to collect the same paychecks even while they’re doing way less work?

    Sounds exactly right.

  14. It’s quite clear Wolf is a fascist. He believes he is a masonic demigod delivered to guide the lives of us, The Great Unwashed.

    It kind of makes sense. He is a Jewish cabinetmaker, therefore he must be the second coming of the Jewish carpenter.


    I can’t believe I didn’t think of that earlier.

  16. Jesus Christ this left-side ad that travels down the page as you scroll and blocks the content except for a couple inches at the bottom of the window is annoying.

    1. One word: Adblock. Been using it for years.

  17. There’s nothing new here. Just the same old ridiculous sort of regulations that the government puts on everything.

    When we adopted our son, we had to post an evacuation plan in the kitchen that indicated at least two evacuation routes from each room with a designated outdoor meeting point. Our son was 2 years, 9 months when he arrived and did not speak English let alone read it. The posted evacuation route did no good at all for him.

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  19. Having a plan is reasonable. Compliance with caseworkers is usually reasonable. Mandated snitching is not reasonable. Fingerprints is completely idiotic. It should also be up to the parents who participate, not the state.

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