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Parents creating pandemic pods to help with remote learning, socialization

PITTSBURGH — Parents are looking for creative ways to keep their kids connected, engaged and cared for during virtual learning.

Some of them have created pandemic pods. Pods are a group of families whose kids exclusively spend time together at one of their homes and get help with remote learning.

“Having a child at home, in the midst of what you would call your workday, adds a little extra stress,” said Jennifer Penrod, a mother of a kindergartner.

Pandemic pods were born out of a need for childcare for working parents. Jennifer and her husband are working from home while their son Andrew starts kindergarten remotely in the North Hills School District. In their pod, the parents handle the morning virtual sessions, and their neighbor with a teaching degree comes over to supplement lessons in the afternoon.

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“They’re sitting down in front of a computer for hours during the day, so this is all about experiencing things, making memories, having fun and learning while they’re doing it,” said Morgan Peterson, the neighbor with a teaching degree.

“They’re getting feedback from someone who truly understands and who is also motivating them to learn. That is extremely important,” said Dr. Linda Hippert, Assistant Professor of Education at Point Park University.

Dr. Hippert has been a teacher and a superintendent. She suggests enlisting college students studying education, if your pod is looking for someone to help academically.

“We don’t want students to stay where they are. We want their growth to continue,” said Dr. Hippert.

Jennifer’s pod, which is comprised of three families, plans to keep going as long as virtual learning is around. She’s seen how engaged her son is with Morgan and the afternoon lessons.

“She has been fantastic,” said Jennifer. “I think she could open a school herself!”

There are certain criteria that pods have to meet, as per state requirements. You can find that information HERE.

Even though the state relaxed some guidelines on who has to license their learning environment, certain municipalities don’t allow it in their zoning ordinances.

Channel 11 Anchor Jennifer Tomazic got a copy of a letter sent to a woman from a local borough, telling her she’d have to get a license to operate a pod. Jennifer is working to talk with the borough about the reason.

Is there an issue at your child’s school that you’d like us to investigate? Contact our investigators by emailing or calling (412) 237-4963.

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