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Adams 12 offers twist to 'learning pods' during remote learning

The district will have employees like school bus drivers, cafeteria workers assisting students in small groups.

BROOMFIELD, Colo. — As families deal with remote learning in the Adams 12 Five Star School District through September 25, that does not mean kids won't be in the building every day according to Executive Director of Schools Tara Pena.

"Where do we start?" Pena said. "How are we able to really launch something like this to the magnitude?"

Across the country, families have discussed forming small of groups of students to do remote learning together as "learning pods". Some parents want to hire a private teacher to supplement the instruction from the schools.

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Pena said Adams 12 wants to add a twist to the learning pod idea by having the district support them at no cost to families. The district will have these students meet in school buildings, five-days-a-week. A teacher will still lead instruction, but a district employee like a school school bus driver or cafeteria worker will serve as a Learning Pod Leader to help the kids directly.

"Our learning pod model will allow us to have daily touch points with our students to provide face-to-face supports for the students that we know need it the most," Pena said.

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She plans to have two to three learning pods per grade at every school from kindergarten through eighth grade. Younger grades will have pods capped at 10 students while older grades can have pods up to 15 students, Pena said. 

Learning pod spots will be limited to keep buildings safe from COVID-19 according to Stacy Gahagen, Director of Security Services with the district.

"We really feel like the learning environment in these pod settings is really the answer for right now," Gahagen said.

Gahagen said less than half of the total number of students will be in the building at once while the rest of the students engage in traditional remote learning with in-person support offered less frequently, likely once-a-week.

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"We are still dealing with a lot of the same unknowns if we had students back in traditional school," Gahagen said. "What we're doing is being able to have a much more controlled environment by having smaller numbers."

By Sept. 25, district leaders will decide whether to continue with remote learning or open school buildings for an expanded in-person experience. Pena said that will depend on COVID-19. If more students apply for learning pod spots than what is available, Pena said a lottery may be held.

Pena said the most important thing is providing a level playing field for families who cannot afford private learning pods with private teachers as proposed by some families across the country.

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"We wanted to make certain that our most vulnerable families, the families that need this type of support, this type of care for children to ensure that we can continue to meet their needs academically and social-emotionally," Pena said.

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