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At home 'learning pods' cause concerns over licensing

The Department of Health and Human Services is figuring out how to handle 'learning pods.'

MAINE, USA — Some families are turning to so-called at home 'learning pods' because of the uncertainty surrounding school reopenings. 

The pods are a small, in-person group of students learning together with a teacher or other supervisor.

The concept has licensed family child care provider Stacie Archibald worried.

"Family child care providers feel that licensing is a really important standard to meet," said Archibald.

Archibald owns a licensed family care program in South Portland, where she teaches kids up to the age of 12. She is also a board member of the Family Childcare Association of Maine.

"Regardless of what the program is being called, in the state of Maine, if there's more than two children, three under the state emergency, they are required to have a child care license," said Archibald.

Since 'learning pods' are new, the Department of Health and Human Services, which handles child care, is working to figure out how to deal the pods.

DHHS Commissioner Dr. Jeanne Lambrew said the big question is, does a so-called learning pod fall under the Department of Education or childcare?

"We are working to develop bright-line guidance to give parents and childcare providers and educators some rules of thumb to go by because we do recognize the fact that there are going to be circumstances where there will be hybrid learning and some children on their off says will be at childcare, they will be at remote learning," said Dr. Lambrew.

The Maine Department of Education said in a statement:

"The Department would not comment on parents’ decisions with regard to the education choices they make for their children. If parents withdraw their students and choose home instruction, they have statute and a process to follow."

While there are a lot of unanswered questions, the DHHS Commissioner said she hopes to have more guidance and clarity for families soon.

RELATED: A mom in York creates 'learning pod' in garage for upcoming school year

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