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- Some parents are uneasy about sending their children to school with the threat of a coronavirus second wave looming and unclear safety precautions.
Remember the back-to-school commercials with parents gleefully skipping down the aisle throwing school supplies in the shopping cart while children sulked behind and “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” played in the background? This back-to-school season is different.
Some parents who don’t feel comfortable sending their kids back to school in masks — even part-time — and aren’t up for homeschooling have created an alternative: learning pods. This trend started among wealthy parents who could afford to hire a private tutor.
To defray the cost of hiring a tutor or licensed teacher, middle-class parents ask neighbors to join. The pods are small groups of children, usually three to six, and one parent hosts “classroom” in their home according to the Los Angeles Times.
There are liability concerns if a teacher or child is injured or tests positive for COVID-19 at a pod. If you are considering hosting a learning pod in your home, you need to talk to your homeowners insurance provider.
Learning pods are more like daycare than homeschooling
Homeschooling is generally a parent taking on the responsibility of developing the curriculum and teaching their children. Unlike homeschooling, learning pods are more akin to a home-based daycare.
If you are a credentialed teacher offering this service in your home, you may have state regulations you must comply with as a licensed professional educator. If you are the parent hosting your neighborhood learning pod, the pod may be classified as a home-based business.
If the mailman slips and fall on your sidewalk, the dog bites a guest, a tree falls on your roof, or the neighbor’s kid injures himself doing a cannonball in your swimming pool, homeowners insurance can protect you. However, learning pods are a new and novel outgrowth for education alternatives as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Therefore, coverage may vary depending on your insurance provider.
What if you are inviting children and teachers in your home and someone is injured or tests positive for COVID-19? Are you required to follow CDC social distancing and safety guidelines? Is a learning pod considered part of the normal activities covered under your homeowners policy?
These are all questions that can only be answered by your provider. If your state considers a learning pod a home-based business or you are an educator, then you may need professional liability coverage.
Liability coverage for learning pods will be policy-specific
Because there is no federally mandated COVID-19 safety requirement, safety guidelines for educators vary by state. Some states are following CDC regulations for in-person instruction. Other states have stricter standards for social distancing in education environments like daycares and schools.
Which begs the question, is your learning pod considered as a home-based daycare in your state? If so, you may need to follow state safety guidelines if you are hosting the pod in your home.
The answer as to whether your homeowners insurance will cover your learning pod will vary based on your state and if you are a professional educator operating the pod. Mark Williams, CEO of Brokers International, told Business Insider that generally homeowners insurance doesn’t cover a home-based business.
He said that many carriers most likely won’t cover because they will consider it a business similar to a daycare. Williams explained this is not like having a babysitter watch your child; in the instance of learning pods, you are actually hiring a professional to come to your home.
If you are considered a home-based business and the teacher gets COVID-19, Williams added, that might complicate issues. He noted there are current lawsuits on whether employers are liable if employees allege a lack of safety, like no face masks or failure to follow social distancing in the workplace, led to exposure to COVID-19. Is the teacher considered your employee who can sue for contracting COVID-19 at your pod?
Before starting a learning pod, you need to contact your homeowners insurance provider to find out if you are covered for hosting a learning pod or if additional coverage is necessary.
“The last thing you want is to have to ask about coverage when you need it,” Williams said.
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