DENVER — Three small tables line a family living room. Each table has two chairs. The names of six first-graders in Denver's Public Schools adorn each seat.
Monday is the first day of instruction for Denver Public Schools. As thousands of the district's students begin the year online, some parents have gathered their children into what has become known as 'learning pods.' The goal is to give their children as close to an in-person learning experience as possible.
"It is Day 1, so there are growing pains. But so far, we are really happy with the way it is working out," said Kelly, a parent in one of the pods. "This little bit of socialization for a period of the day is really going to be helpful."
The students are still enrolled in their public school, the curriculum is the same. However, parents in the pod say the in-person instruction is crucial.
"This pandemic has been so difficult on everyone in so many ways as far as that lack of connection. And I think that we are just trying to do our best as parents to bring them together in small groups."
Representatives with Denver Public Schools shared mixed feelings about learning pods and equal access to education. In a statement, several school board members said "we are deeply concerned about the pods’ long-term negative implications for public education and social justice."
But for parents, in-person instruction is paramount.
"The iPads and the learning through electronics is challenging for young children," explained Kelly. "Doing this together, and working out the kinks together, makes it a lot better."
Their instructor, a retired teacher, sees this as an opportunity for more personal interaction with her new pupils.
"I am super excited to get here, get started with kids," she said. "What have we all had to do, all reinvent ourselves, as educators, as workers from home."