Looking to open a homeschooling pod or join one? The idea of homeschooling together as an alternative to distance learning has become increasingly popular but state authorities warn if you are hoping to host a group you will need a permit.
The Oregon Department of Education (OED) urges families who are looking to start their own homeschooling pod to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines in order to prevent the spread of the virus and get students back into school buildings as soon as possible.
“Multi-family learning groups may slow the process of returning to school by creating more opportunities for spread among students and families,” Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill said in the OED press release on Sept. 4.
Early Learning System Director Miriam Calderon said homeschooling pods are in fact required to follow the same regulations as other childcare providers.
"We don't have business as usual childcare right now, we have emergency childcare. The childcare programs that are open, schooling school-age children and younger children are implementing really strict health and safety protocols," she said.
Childcare facilities require background checks, CPR training, safe sleep training as well following COVID-19 safety precautions. These precautions include, but are not limited to; washing hands before entering the building, taking temperatures of anyone entering the facility, daily health checks, face coverings for staff, face coverings inside for children in kindergarten and up and socially distancing of 36 inches when children are asleep.
"Young children typically don't physically distance from each other. We need to make sure that it's safe so it doesn't perpetuate the spread in the community," Calderon explained.
What Calderon does not want to see are family gatherings to provide in-person learning and ultimately increase the chance of spread for COVID-19 without following safety precautions.
"If childcare becomes yet another factor that contributes to spreading the virus, then we're undermining our own goals right?" Calderon said.
If a homeschooling pod is the only choice families have, Calderon, says parents' involvement in implementing the safety of children is key.
"Where we [OED] would begin to be concerned is if parents aren't actively involved in the care and support of their children and they're hiring somebody that doesn't have a background check or this basic training, and isn't familiar with these guidelines," Calderon said.
OED said to remember the three W's to help agencies get closer to opening schools to in-person instruction: watch your distance, wear a face covering, wash your hands.
"Be familiar with what does need to be regulated, be familiar with the guidelines and practices, and then think about the big picture that we all have to do our part right now," Calderon said.
Calderon understands that families across Oregon are in different situations with different school districts, but she wants parents to know regulated, state childcare does exist for them.
"At the state level we are working really hard to make sure that we keep as up to date information as possible as which emergency childcare providers are open and operating in communities," Calderon said.
To find childcare in your area, you can text "children" or "ninos" to 898211.