DENVER – Colorado released guidance on learning pods for children Thursday afternoon shortly after the governor issued an executive order that allows them to temporarily operate under certain different licensing requirements than are typically required by statute.
The learning pods are among the alternatives parents have moved to this school year in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic so their children can stay in smaller learning groups – often with some of their friends.
The governor’s executive order suspends parts of certain statutes to allow for unlicensed learning pods that include either five or fewer children aged 6-9, or eight or fewer children aged 10+, if the learning pods do not provide 24-hour care and if each child’s parent or legal guardian consents to allow their children into the pod.
“This Executive Order is intended to give parents and students short-term flexibility at the beginning of this school year while also keeping children safe during this time,” the state said. “This is not a permanent change to Colorado law.”
The guidance surrounding the executive order for the Colorado Department of Education and Colorado Department of Human Services says that licensed child care facilities are still the most highly-recommended option in the state.
“Licensed child care is inspected and rated by the state, and licensed programs must support children’s health and safety, ensure staff are well-trained and effective, ensure individuals complete comprehensive background checks, and provide a supportive learning environment,” said CDPHS office of Early Childhood Director Mary Anne Snyder
But if parents do not want to go that route and want to start their own or have their children join another learning pod, the state has advice.
The state is asking people to register learning pods with the state by clicking here, which the state says will allow the state to supplement the learning with free training on health, safety and child development.
People are also advised to ask for an internet background check through CBI for anyone supervising or instructing children. The guidance also says the pods should have plans about dietary and allergy needs, to remove any hazards in the space, create evacuations plans and ensure there are transparent guidelines around discipline and structure.
The state is also reminding people that for students enrolled in public schools, districts will still facilitate the curriculum and attendance requirements and grades still apply.
But since many pod-learning students are not enrolled in schools, the state is also reminding people that pods are not taught by a student’s parent or relative, as that is considered home-schooling.
The state says the new order and guidance are meant to give more flexibility to families and students who may want to learn differently during the pandemic and said there is the ability for students to move back to school learning if they choose to join a pod at some point, though disenrolling from school could potentially complicate things, officials said.
“The education of Colorado’s children is critical during this unprecedented time," said Melissa Colsman, CDE's associate commissioner of student learning. "We recognize the challenges families are facing as their students participate in remote learning. Parents who choose to use learning pods should find the parent guide a useful resource when making important decisions for their children.”
Click here to learn more.