Learning pods of all varieties take root amid pandemic

Updated: Oct. 19, 2020 at 3:39 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - So much about 2020 has been difficult, but a major challenge many face this year is school. While remote learning works for some, it can be tough for others and that’s why many parents are turning to learning pods for help when it comes to virtual school.

“We were kind of trying to figure out how to support our kids and keep doing our work at the same time. Monteith Construction was asking itself how to support its employees who have school-aged kids going into the virtual school,” said Susie Sewell of the Camp Schreiber Foundation. “So, we combined our resources and we created this Front Street Academy.”

The academy sits along Front Street in downtown Wilmington and is open five days a week to help kids keep up with their school work on the days they are not in a classroom.

“Just to get out of the house and do school in a socially distanced safe environment that’s maybe not their bedroom or their dining room table,” said Sewell. “It also gives parents a break to get to work, focus for a couple of hours, and pick them up around lunch.”

There is no tuition or fees for the students; all of the cost is taken care of by Monteith or Camp Schreiber. Books, pens, pencils, paper, snacks and much more is given to the kids to help them get their school work done between 8 a.m. and noon Monday through Friday.

Front Street Academy isn’t the only learning pod in the Cape Fear. New Wave Center in Wilmington is a new learning pod that provides tutoring and academic support for elementary aged children.

“We do much more than just babysit children," said Hannah Baker, the operator of New Wave. "We educate children daily. We do. Even though it might look like play, there are things where they’re learning even to how to communicate now because everything’s online.”

Baker says the tutors at New Wave take on all the remote learning responsibilities. That way, when it’s time for the student to go home, there’s one less thing the parents have to worry about.

“Virtual learning is hard,” said Baker. "Props for parents who are doing it on their own because, I mean, it is hard and I love it though.”

New Wave operates out of a church in Wilmington. Baker says she had to get insurance for the center and had to be added to the church’s insurance. She also had to apply for a daycare license through the date. Along with those things, she had to have parents fill out several forms regarding COVID, injuries, basic information, etc.

For those hosting learning pods at their homes or attending the pods at a friend’s or neighbor’s home, insurance and a license is something to think about. According to the NCDHHS Division of Childhood Development and Early Education, if you’re caring for more than two children who aren’t related, for more than four hours a day, you should have a license. For more details about that and some exemptions, click here.

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