Gov. Polis’ executive order should ease formation of learning pods to help parents navigate school during COVID-19 pandemic

Gov. Jared Polis on Thursday issued an executive order designed to help parents more easily form home-based learning pods during the COVID-19 pandemic by temporarily suspending state child care licensure rules.

Executive order 188, issued late Thursday, will allow learning pods to be exempt from licensing if they provide care for five or fewer children between the ages of 6 and 9, or if they provide care for eight or fewer children 10 years old and up. In neither case will care be permitted to be provided on a 24-hour-a-day basis.

The order will last for a month, unless extended.

“This Executive Order temporarily suspends statute to facilitate learning pods due to the presence of COVID-19 in Colorado, and to balance health and safety with needed flexibility for supervision and care of children who are learning remotely during this pandemic,” the order reads.

Learning pods sprung up across the nation this summer, including many in Colorado, as hundreds of school districts opted not to offer in-person learning for fear of seeing the coronavirus infect students and teachers returning to school campuses. Many parents chose to keep their children at home rather than send them to school, creating challenges to providing child care while working.

A pod can take the form of a small informal group of students gathered at someone’s home to engage in remote learning with their school to more formal arrangements in rented space with hired tutors or teachers.

Learning pods are seen as an additional way to teach kids across an education landscape that is now using a myriad of approaches — from in-person to remote learning to a mix of the two — to provide instruction in the midst of a global pandemic. Advocates say pods allow limited socialization among school-age students without the risk of widespread transmission of COVID-19.

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