One-Room Schoolhouses Make a Coronavirus Plague Comeback in Backyards and Garages

In the olden days, one-room schoolhouses were common across the country, many of them simple wood-frame buildings painted white.

Katy Young’s one-room school is going be a dome.

Ms. Young, who lives in the suburbs outside Berkeley, Calif., recently set up a 24-foot-round geodesic polyhedron in her backyard to host a small group of kindergarteners. An Airstream trailer parked nearby will serve as an administrative office.

The dome was built by Ms. Young’s husband, Randy, for use at Burning Man, the annual outdoor art festival in the Nevada desert. But with Burning Man canceled this summer, the structure is being repurposed for her kindergarten son and five classmates, whose Mandarin-language school has switched to distance learning in the fall.

“We’re calling it ‘dome school,’ ” said Ms. Young, a lawyer.

With thousands of schools across the country moving to partial or full remote learning in the fall, parents are racing to form small at-home schooling groups or “pandemic pods,” groups of children who will be taught together. Some parents are hiring teachers to help guide the students through remote learning, while others plan to devise lesson plans on their own.

But finding a place to host the mini schools is proving to be a challenge. Even for parents that have the space, hosting students inside seems iffy because of social-distancing guidelines. Plus, many parents are working from home and don’t want the distraction.

For parents without the space or financial means for elaborate setups, the challenge can be even greater. Shauna Causey, founder and chief executive of Weekdays Micro-Schools, a website that helps organize schooling pods, says some families are retrofitting their dining rooms or basements, or taking over local parks.

Holding school outside comes with its own set of issues: What about Wi-Fi and bathroom access? Is there enough space for students to sit 6 feet apart? What happens when it rains?

Parents are devising workarounds. In Davis, Calif., Liam Honigsberg rolled out several Ikea benches and chairs, and erected a shade canopy at the end of a small side street for his 6-year-old son and his friends for the coming school year. Mr. Honigsberg said he suspects that setting up in the street is probably illegal.

If it gets too cold in the winter, the class might end up in down jackets in his open garage.

“The spirit of American innovation is sort of the centerpiece of where I was going with this,” said Mr. Honigsberg, who works in education technology.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently mandated that most school districts across the state begin the academic year with full-time distance learning.

Sage Cohen, the mother of a sixth-grader in Portland, Ore., thought her recently renovated garage would make the perfect location for a home school. Portland Public Schools is planning a fall schedule that is largely remote, and she didn’t want her son to toil alone.

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Source: WSJ