FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (WDVM) — The Fairfax County Public School system announced that the new trend of “tutor pods” in Fairfax County was not connected to the schools, and tried to clarify any questions parents may have about them.

They addressed the fact that a number of “pandemic pods” are being developed in Fairfax County. The school listed a number of reasons as to why they are not in support of the tutoring option.

The statement reminded families that tutoring pods are not a part of FCPS and therefore cannot be monitored. They also listed the requirements for school teachers to be able to tutor, such as not being able to receive compensation if the child is already receiving instruction from them at FCPS.

The school system also expressed concern that the tutoring pods would increase the gap in educational access for all students, citing that some children may not have transportation to a pod or the finances to afford extra tutoring.

This comes after a story we covered about two Fairfax moms creating a learning pod group that received over 1,000 interested Fairfax County families.

WDVM reached out to FCPS for comment, but were unable to reach them.

The full statement published on August 7 says:

“Across the country, many parents are joining together to engage private tutors (who are often school teachers) to provide tutoring or home instruction for small groups of children. While there is no systematic way to track these private efforts, it’s clear that a number of “pandemic pods” or tutoring pods are being established in Fairfax County. 

We are aware of these tutoring pods, as well as some accompanying community concerns. To be clear, these instructional efforts are not supported by or in any way controlled by FCPS—for several reasons:

•    These are purely private initiatives on the part of parents and families. Families have an absolute right to work together and pool resources to provide instruction or tutoring—just as they do to pool resources and provide private daycare, music lessons, or recreational activities for their children—but tutoring pods are not part of the public school system.

•    Under the terms of their contracts, FCPS teachers are allowed to provide tutoring services for reimbursement, but only as long as they meet these conditions:

  • Teachers must make it clear that the services are being provided as an independent contractor, and not as an employee of FCPS.
  • They cannot tutor children for private compensation if the same children are receiving instruction from them in FCPS schools (i.e., the children cannot be in their classes). That’s true for private tutoring or group instruction in any location.
  • They cannot engage in outside instruction or any preparation for it during their FCPS work hours.

While FCPS doesn’t and can’t control these private tutoring groups, we do have concerns that they may widen the gap in educational access and equity for all students. Many parents cannot afford private instruction. Many working families can’t provide transportation to and from a tutoring pod, even if they could afford to pay for the service.

We have received some requests from parents who would like to cluster groups or pods of students together with a specific teacher. From both a logistical perspective, and in the interest of educational equity, FCPS cannot accommodate such requests.

It is complicated and time-consuming to develop class schedules. Schools go to great pains to develop schedules that consider teacher and parent input and balance classes for gender, race, home language, academic strengths, learning goals, and special learning needs like special education, English language development, and enrichment.  

In the face of the many challenges arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, our schools do not have the capacity to accommodate specific class/teacher requests from families for the purpose of creating instructional pods. Our energy and focus must remain on providing the best educational experience and impact possible for all our students.”