CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston County School District has launched its own 'learning pods’ to create a way to allow students learning virtually to have a place to get work done and still have social interaction.
Learning pods, also known as pandemic pods, are small groups of students that meet up in a home or larger space. The group is run by an adult who can care for the children and help them with their virtual lessons.
The district already has a temporary pod up and running that serves eight students, according to Chief Financial and Administrative Officer Don Kennedy. It’s located inside two trailers at Goodwin Elementary in North Charleston.
“There are a lot of needs out there that parents and students are going through," Kennedy said. “We know for sure some students may not be engaged, may not be connecting with the technology, and may be having difficulties. We know some students are really struggling socially and emotionally by being isolated.”
The focus of this first round of pods is students in North Charleston. That city has only 50-percent of its students attending school in person every day compared to the 75-percent of Mount Pleasant students who do.
Three organizations, including two churches, have said they’re willing to create classrooms in their facilities. The district is finalizing paperwork with Azalea Drive Church of Christ, North Charleston United Methodist Church, and non-profit group Beyond Our Walls.
Once approved, the facilities would operate Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Each could have at least 20 students and some could have up to 60.
The background checks into the employees that would be working there are underway now. The main staff will be made up of retired teachers and district staff. They’re set to be paid using some of the $4.7 million the state is set to send to the school district in a second round of funding.
“I would say the big challenge right now is understanding the needs, and then explaining that we aren’t seeing pods as the answer to all of the problems," Kennedy said. “We want to make sure we’re addressing the needs that are out there as opposed to saying the pods are the answer.”
The school district is also considering other programs like sending nurses and counselors to students' homes. They’re also looking at creating more pods around the district and are currently identifying where that need is.