CALGARY -- As parents explore out-of-class ideas for their children’s education, some Calgary businesses are adapting to try and meet the demand.

InjaNation indoor activity centre is considering a program where cohorts of nine students — who are supervised by a coach — could do their online schoolwork, socialize and enjoy physical activity on the trampolines, climbing gym and indoor playground.

“We have the facility, we have the space, we can supervise the children,” said Rachael McIntosh marketing coordinator with InjaNation.

The business has asked parents for feedback on the proposal and said it has had a lot of interest, as well as some concern that it might be crossing into charter school territory, which would require adherence to more regulations.

“It starts to blur the lines about who is actually able to deliver education,” said Medeana Moussa with the advocacy group Support Our Students.

InjaNation admits using the term “academy” to describe the proposed program may have been misleading but the business maintains it would only be a place for kids to do their schoolwork.

“We’re not teaching anything here, we’re just supervising them, so we’re the stand-in parent while their parent is at work,” explained McIntosh.

She said all students would have to be registered in online school programs and bring their own laptops or tablets to complete their work.

Many parents are considering a similar idea called “learning pods.”

Calgary home classroom

It involves hiring a teacher for a small group of students to learn from home.  

Amy Castro’s family is exploring the option because her 10- year-old son experienced difficulties with online learning.

“With a learning pod my son would still be able to get a peer group and would still be able to have access to a real teacher, but then we would limit the risk of going to a huge building with hundreds of kids,” said Castro.

Some parents and teachers worry about what classrooms will look like with physical distancing.

“It is impossible to physically distance in a classroom without a cap on class size,” said Renee Englot, a junior high teacher in Edmonton.

Calgary tutoring company, Tutor Doctor, has been operating for seven years but has noticed a lot more interest during the pandemic.

“Many different formats are emerging that we didn’t traditionally do but we’re very, very positioned, very open to doing that. All of our tutors are very diverse,” said Yossi Suissa, head of Calgary’s Tutor Doctor.

He said it comes at a time when tutors are also more accessible and flexible due to changing habits during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The emerging marketplace for education options is not surprising to some parents.

“The government hasn’t done enough to make people feel safe, so people are looking elsewhere,” said Moussa.

But it comes with concerns about inequality, since options can cost more than $1,000 per month.

Castro admitted cost might limit her family’s ability to proceed with a “learning pod” option.

While many families decide what to do in the weeks leading up to the new school year, some businesses are preparing for a possible shift.

“We’ll just have to look at the numbers and look at our options and make sure it is a viable solution for the community and for us as a business,” said McIntosh.