ORLANDO, Fla. —- By now, parents are familiar with the three options for learning for Orange County Public Schools: Florida Virtual School, in person learning, or LaunchEd.
But, a program in Orlando is giving families who need it yet another option —- "learning pods."
The Dr. James R. Smith Neighborhood Center is usually home to children’s summer camps.
Now that school’s in session, it’s evolved into a space where parents can breathe a sigh of relief.
“Being that both me and my husband are essential workers, this program is a lifesaver," parent Tia Smith said. "We have to go to work, and they can’t stay home.”
For Smith, bringing them to this small, supervised environment, was a no-brainer.
“Oh man, it’s amazing," she said. "I mean, it makes you feel comfortable. This is like a second home for them outside of school.”
Just outside though, storms knocked out the power during the last hour of the day. Even with no lights and no air conditioning, the children stayed focused.
Their parents said they feel confident this is the safest place they can be.
“My eighth-grader has chronic asthma, so it was nice to be able to have that relief to know that they could come to a facility that they’re also familiar with," parent Tiffany Gibson said.
This learning pod concept is certainly not the first of its kind, but Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said it’s one of the first that’s accessible to everyone.
“We need to make them available to all of our residents, not just those that can pay a substantial fee to have their kids get it," Dyer said. "So if you’re on reduced lunch, you can have your child go there for free, and otherwise if you can pay, it’s $5 a day.”
Dyer said the city wanted to check off all the boxes so at the end of the day, worry is removed from the equation parents have to consider, and the mission is still the same.
Another benefit, parents said, is that the children aren’t learning alone and still get the chance to socialize with others.
There are still some spots available in this program.
To sign up, or learn more, go to Orlando.gov, and search “learning pod.”