Parents who don't want to send their kids to school with a mask have an option in the form of a learning pod, a form of home schooling being organized by a mother protesting Gov. Phil Murphy's masking order.

The governor this week said all public and private school children in kindergarten through 12th grade must wear a mask in September because of the spike in COVID-19 cases, especially in children.  The move angered parents who were hoping Murphy would stick with his initial decision to allow districts to decide whether kids would have to mask up in classrooms.

Caitlin Cunningham, founder of the Child Advocate Coalition, launched to link parents in every New Jersey county looking for an alternative to schools.

With the clock ticking on a new school year, Cunningham is still recruiting county coordinators who will organize meet-and-greets as the first step toward putting together the learning pods.

"In Somerset County if there's a family interested in Montgomery and there's a family interested in Bridgewater maybe they can meet somewhere in the middle, say Somerville, and figure out the grade levels and connect that way. Basically what we are is a grassroots referral service," Cunningham said.

Many of the 1,500 parents who have reached out so far are interested in home schooling, pods and co-ops and are already discussing what curriculum they will use and where classes will be held.  But there are still many questions that remain.

"There's a business that was willing to open its doors to do extracurriculars part of the day and the second half is scholastic," Cunningham said.

Another unanswered question is who will actually do the teaching.

"I know there have been several teachers who have approached us and are willing to leave their jobs to get paid hourly by numerous different families. People have been saying the teachers would be making more by working for a higher hourly rate," Cunningham said.

She disputes Murphy's belief that those who are against his mask mandate are willing to let children get seriously ill and die.

"At the end of the day this is about parental choice. You want to talk about school choice, you want to talk about equal opportunities for students. Let's talk about the children who have fallen through the cracks and their education severely disrupted," Cunningham said.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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