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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

A New Kind Of Matchmaker, 'Pandemic Pods' Pop Up Around Greater Cincinnati

remote learning

Working parents face some tough decisions when it comes to remote learning for their kids. Some are opting to pay for at-home programs that provide a teacher to assist in virtual school sessions.

Knowing her 5-year-old daughter needed in-person instruction to supplement remote kindergarten at Sands Montessori, full-time working mom Amy Fitzgibbons says she started Cincinnati Teaching Collaborative.

"I thought, if I'm looking for this then there's got to be tons of other parents who are and I would want to try to make it affordable and accessible. So why not give it a try?"

Fitzgibbons' initial focus is on kindergarten through third grade, where students - no more than three to a "pod" - will have a teacher come into their home to augment the school's remote learning. All will wear masks.

She says the model is still evolving. "Parents who have needs, whatever those needs are, can let me know what they're looking for, and then I'm also recruiting teachers simultaneously. So what I'm trying to do is be as flexible as possible."

Fitzgibbons sees herself as kind of a matchmaker. She's hiring everybody from college students to interventional specialists depending on what parents want. The price will range from $30-$60 an hour depending upon the experience of the educator.

Academic Learning Services, a Montgomery company, is also setting up learning pods, expanding its services from tutoring pre-pandemic.

It offers two types of learning pods: parent-created, with siblings and/or friends of siblings; or company-created, with a wait list of students. The same educator teaches each pod during set days and time frames each week. The cost depends on the size of the group - in this case, between three and four students - but averages $20 an hour.

A host of other companies are offering virtual learning pods as well. 

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.