Parents are spending $70,000 for their kids to learn in ‘pods’

Now that most NYC-area schools have released their plans for the upcoming school year, with a combination of remote and in-person learning, parents of elite students are scrambling to supplement what they believe will inevitably be lost if students aren’t in the classroom — by hiring private educators.

Known as “pods,” small groups of four to 10 students in the same grade led by a tutor or teacher, have become the solution for weary and wealthy parents who are paying thousands of dollars — on top of five-figure private school tuitions — for the extra help monitoring kids during their school’s remote learning schedule.

Christopher Rim, founder of the tutoring company Command Education, has been inundated with calls from “desperate parents” demanding leaders for pods that they’ve created with other families. He’s already staffed four pods in the Hamptons with tutors and expects to close in on 10 by the time the school year begins, with kids expected to rotate learning at a different home each week. One Water Mill parent already volunteered her 13-bedroom manse as the permanent home base of her kid’s 11th-grade four-person learning pod. He charges $3,500 a week per student, but offers a flat rate of $70,000 per kid if you pay the whole year up front, which covers 30 weeks of school.

“These days, nothing is off the table. It’s about your child not falling behind,” Rim told The Post of parents’ decision to pod. “There’s nothing too expensive in terms of education for their child.”

Rim, a 25-year-old Yale grad with a BA in psychology who started the company in 2015 out of his dorm room, trains his tutors, who are all Ivy-league educated and under 30 years old. Some have teaching degrees and are certified to teach in public schools but not all. Said Rim, “This is not a replacement for school. This is not an accredited program. This is a supplement to make sure the students are on track.” All his tutors will be tested for COVID weekly, and will follow CDC guidelines for social-distancing whenever possible.

Sara, a mom from the Upper East Side who declined to give her last name for privacy reasons, decided to hire Rim to staff a pod for her Trinity School middle schooler and pals. “It’s a really critical time,” she said. “Elementary school is one thing, but middle school going into high school is intense.”

She admitted feeling “sticker shock” about the $35,000 cost for the fall semester pod. “I already invested $50,000 in tuition [for school], but I think this is worth it,” she said. “It’s an investment in my child.” And it takes the pressure off her to keep up with home-schooling while she works full time in finance: “I don’t have time to police my child.”

“It’s a big chunk of money, but we committed,” said Stephanie, an Upper East Side mom of two high schoolers, who’s shelling out $35,000 for each kid for a pod this fall semester in addition to the $55,000 she pays for them to go to Columbia Grammar & Prep. “It was just a s - - tshow in the spring,” she said. “I wanted consistency and I thought the pod would be the best thing.” But the mom, who works in finance and is currently living in Sagaponack, insisted she’s aware that their situation is unique.

“I feel bad. I read the news about these poor kids in Mississippi whose idea of PPE is a shower curtain. It widens the idea of the haves and the have-nots,” she said. “We’re lucky and super-fortunate that we can do this for our kids so they don’t fall behind next year.”

Her older child, a rising junior studying physics and trigonometry, is growing anxious about college and feeling extra pressure to perform without in-person learning. “It’s just part of going to a private school in NYC — the goal is to get to a top 10 school, with a Duke, Michigan or UVA in there somewhere,” said Stephanie of the fierce college admissions process. “If you get a B or two B’s, good luck getting out of that hole. We’re just making sure they’re trying to stay the course.”

She also underscores that by hiring tutors, she’s paying for skills she doesn’t have herself. “I don’t want to seem dense to the fact that what we’re doing for them is extremely privileged, but I don’t have the time nor the capabilities to sit and review an English paper or help with college essays,” she says. “It’s beyond my skill set.”

Even public school families who fear DOE disarray are plotting to pod. “After the UFT [United Federation of Teachers] said they’re going on strike, my phone blew up,” said Frances Kweller of Kweller Prep in Forest Hills. “Many parents don’t trust how the DOE will operate, so they want a concrete program that will give them specific learning goals and objectives.”

kweller-prep-2kweller-prep-4kweller-prep-3Frances Kweller of Kweller Prepkweller-prep

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