HORRY COUNTY, SC (WBTW) – If you’re planning on helping unrelated families with virtual schooling this year, you will need to register through the state.

“Pods” have become a common household term as working families look for supervision for virtual and hybrid learning.

Pod learning would take place in an unrelated family member’s home and where the homeowner would guide lessons.

The South Carolina Department of Social Services says pod operators need to apply for a family child care home license.

“If a person is going to care for children for more than one unrelated family, the person would at least become registered with the Department of Social Services,” said Connelly-Anne Ragley, DSS director of communication and external affairs.

The department says background checks and at-home visits will be completed before licenses are granted.

Registered pods will follow the same requirements as in-home daycare centers.

The state allows a maximum of six children in the home, including a pod operator’s children.

However, some local ordinances demand less.

“It’s important to check in with local zoning regulation and laws because local municipalities and counties may limit the number of people that someone can care for in a home setting,” said Ragley.

DSS says they will oversee pods and encourages operators to register before school starts.

“If something were to happen with those children while they are in your care and you as the homeowner or the parent who’s running that pod, just to take that into consideration. There would be some questions as well,” said Ragley.

The department says they will respond if a pod is reported for violations.

“We do look into those using our standards then refer if there needs to be criminal investigation, then we refer them to law enforcement,” said Ragley.

Ragley says some churches and non-profit groups have reached out to the department, offering their buildings and services to virtual learning.

She says they will also need to register through the state.

“We are tasked as the regulatory agency in the State of South Carolina for regulating child care. The health and safety of children remains our number one priority here at the agency,” said Ragley.

The department also encourages pods and virtual learning sites to follow CDC guidelines by wearing masks in school settings.

Those interested in registering a pod or virtual learning site can find more information here.