ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Some Albuquerque parents are taking the upcoming school year into their own hands. They’re creating small groups called ‘pandemic pods’ for students to learn together while the districts try to work in a hybrid model.

The Facebook group called ‘Pandemic Pods’ launched last month, with parents planning for their children’s school years. That group has now grown to more than 35,000 members.

“A pandemic pod is kind of an informal group of parents that have gotten together and decided that they needed to take some of their kids’ education into their own hands,” said Becca Lusko Toups, a member of the Albuquerque group. “These parents are coming together, bringing their kids together, one for the social and emotional support because I feel that was one thing really lacking for our children last year.”

It grew so much, they’ve branched into smaller groups by location, including Albuquerque. Lusko Toups says the group is helping local parents decide on what game plan works for them as they navigate this upcoming school year.

“They’re going to look different from one pod to the next,” said Lusko Toups. “Some pods are going to be full kind-of homeschool pods really bringing their kids together in an informal way and homeschooling.”

Some may just meet a couple days a week for some socially distant ‘physical education’ outside. Others are even bringing in tutors to help in areas like science and math.

“Everyone is in a completely different boat, even though we’re kind of in the same boat of uncertainty,” said Lusko Toups. “I think keeping our attitude positive is really key but just flexing with those last-minute changes and you know if we go full homeschool hybrid online, then we’re going to revisit the game plan and change it up again and maybe we’ll be calling in for more outside help.”

Lusko Toups says the pandemic pods can be especially helpful for working parents. Some may be working from home but can’t always monitor schoolwork, and others may physically have to go to a job and need somewhere safe for their child to do their online learning.

“The idea that ‘it takes a village’ is kind of where this comes from,” said Lusko Toups. “I have four children in four different schools and keeping track of all of the Zoom calls and the meetings was all but impossible. Forget trying to run the home and work from home and everything else.”

The pandemic pods are made up of smaller groups of kids to limit exposure. The sizes or number of families involved may depend on what a family’s risk factors are, for example, if a family member is immuno-compromised, a pod may not be the best option.

“I think on the absolute best day as a parent, deciding what the best avenue is for your child and their education is hard,” said Lusko Toups. “You don’t have to do it alone. You can have your community, you can have your people support you and fill in those areas where maybe you’re not as strong.”

However, as many New Mexicans head into an unknown school year, the Albuquerque ‘pod’ says they’re thankful to come together as a community and support one another. The groups are available to join through Facebook. For more information, there’s a Pandemic Pods-Main group, as well as the smaller, local Pandemic Pods-Albuquerque.