Learning pods and home insurance: what you ought to know


When Liz Sinclair Kruth sends her senior kindergartener back to school this month, it's going to look quite different than this past year. Uncomfortable using the risks related to putting her daughter back in the classroom as COVID-19 continues to spread within our communities, Sinclair Kruth has organized a learning pod in her community in Guelph, Ont.

“We didn't feel comfortable sending our daughter to school with 25 other kindergartners,” says Sinclair Kruth. “For our family, we decided the school plan had an unknown risk, but likely high risk than our pod option.”

The pod will include five children from five families inside the community, a hired Early Childhood Educator, along with a rotating host schedule (each week the home will change). Sinclair Kruth says that the pod is going to be outdoors as much as possible, which will permit safer social distancing, but that kids will not wear masks while inside the host's home.

Learning pods provide the opportunity for parents with an active role in their children's education and lower their contact with other unknown families, but they do present some unique challenges. When families open their homes to others during a pandemic, they also open themselves up to the risk of litigation – and home insurance plans may not shield you.

Home insurance won't cover 'communicable diseases'

Home insurance policies usually include some type of liability coverage, which protects you in the event that someone is injured in your yard and decides to sue you. However when it comes to communicable diseases – like the flu, and today COVID-19 – home insurance policies typically have a clause that excludes these diseases from being covered in order to prevent unwarranted litigation. That means that by hosting a learning pod during the pandemic, you're opening yourself up to liability.

“If among the kids in the group contracted COVID-19, you wouldn't be able to look at your home insurance policy [for coverage],” says Stefan Tirschler, Product and Underwriting Manager at Square One Insurance, referencing a situation where a person contracts COVID-19 while in your home.

In accessory for communicable diseases, having children running around your home or backyard also presents risks associated with injury and potential

litigation. “Anytime any guest makes your home, if a person trips and falls, they might pursue damages against you,” he states. “If you have young kids [in your home] and they're injured, this is a potential exposure that you are facing.” While property insurance would typically include liability coverage for such an accident, it is best to discuss with your provider first so that you know just how your coverage would apply.

Find out what coverage you need to host a learning pod

A short telephone call with your insurance carrier can provide you reassurance, or clarification about changes that should be designed to your policy in order to make sure you've adequate coverage. “They'll have the ability to let you know what gaps you need to close,” Tirschler says.

For example, if you are charging families to sign up within the learning pod, and hosting it in your home, then you will want to check out adding commercial insurance to your home insurance plan. Once you're earning income you're technically operating like a business, and can need to protect yourself as a result, says Tirschler.

Sinclair Kruth is currently in discussion together with her home insurance provider, but individual families are also purchasing student accident insurance through InsureMyKids for every of their children for added protection.

There's also the educator to think about. “If you're hiring someone to are available in and teach, you would like to take certain precautions in the process of doing that,” says Tirschler. “Make sure they're appropriately accredited. . . and make sure they have the correct professional liability insurance themselves.” When the educator doesn't have insurance, but is found to blame for an accident that occurs in the home, the household may be vulnerable to litigation, he states.

Because home insurance policies inform you that communicable diseases aren't covered, the homeowner takes on the risk of being sued if your child or adult contracts COVID within their home. “Especially should you knew you'd it and didn't disclose to folks you let in your house,” says Amy Shields, Barrister and Solicitor at Shields Law Office in Guelph, Ont.

That's why it's crucial for families engaged in a learning pod environment to consider appropriate risk management measures.

“I would highly advise a liability waiver that directly pertains to the transmission of COVID-19 and other communicable diseases,” says Shields. The waiver acts as added protection that your property insurance cannot provide.

Communicate with the families in your pod

Sinclair Kruth says that each family in her own pod is aware of the expectations and the risks. In addition to a liability waiver that participants must sign, people are also signing a contract that will outline the tos from the learning pod.

“In the contract all of us accept follow basic public health guidelines for COVID,” she says. “If someone is sick or a sibling/family member is sick, then your child stays home.”

Tirschler recommends following the guidelines organized through the health authorities inside your jurisdiction. “It's much easier to take notice of the guideline than dispute after the fact,” he states. “If mask wearing is recommended, that's highly advisable. If you are the parent, it's maybe also worth knowing if you're dealing with allergies or sensitivities. If your member has some kind of chemical sensitivity you would learn about that before you offer hand sanitizer.”

Learning pods may be an excellent fit for some families, but it still requires understanding the risks associated. If you aren't sure whether your house insurance policy covers the activities in your home, i suggest you ask.