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Are you a parent concerned about the new school year?
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When the coronavirus pandemic first hit San Antonio, everything happened so fast. Schools shut down, and my kids were thrown into online learning. In my job as a family support worker, I was moved from working on campus to working at the main office to working at home.
Working at home with a 6-year-old and an 8-year-old is not ideal. My job requires that I talk to parents all day over the phone, so having my children constantly coming in while I’m on the phone and asking for snacks or complaining about how bored they were just wasn’t working. At the same time, they had to take classes online, but the new learning environment just wasn’t conducive to learning, especially not on their own. To them, it was a long vacation.
My kids’ father and I co-parent, and when things started to get shut down so did his job. In order to be able to do my job, I went from being a full-time parent to a weekend parent. I didn’t get to see my kids much because it was easier for them to stay with their dad so I could have complete focus at home to work.
In my job, I was used to hearing “we are doing fine” when I check in with families, but all of a sudden it was, “How are we going to feed our kids? Where can I find diapers when they are sold out everywhere?” As hard as it was to not see my kids as often, I knew these families needed me.
When the Boys & Girls Club Mays Family Clubhouse opened so that working parents like me could get work done at home, it gave me such a sense of relief. Now, there is a big difference between having a place like that to go to during the school year versus just letting them go to school. The ratio at the Boys & Girls Club is way different than it would be at a school. They have made sure that my children are well taken care of and have taken every procedure to make sure their facility is up to all standards to keep children safe. A school is a much bigger facility that is impossible to keep completely sanitized at all times, and the number of students – not to mention the nature of children to want to socialize and be near each other – makes it impossible to practice social distancing.
Now that we are approaching the new school year with no sign of the pandemic subsiding, parents are facing tough decisions. My daughter will be in third grade and will start the year with virtual learning through Labor Day. When I recently spoke to her teacher, he asked me if I wanted to continue with online instruction after that date or have my daughter return to campus. But how can I answer that when everything is still so unsure?
Yes, there are parents out there who, without a doubt, will opt to keep their children at home. But, as a working mom, it’s not that simple. Do I want my daughter on campus because she needs the extra help and working face-to-face with an instructor may get her to where she needs to be? Of course. Do I want to risk her getting sick just so that she can be on track? Absolutely not.
I open Facebook to this debate every day. There are parents saying they will not let their kids go to school and that they would rather homeschool them. Then I see the other side, parents who, like me, have to work and don’t have the luxury of making that decision. Just the other day I saw a friend post that it was going to cost him $500 a week to have his three children in daycare while he and their mother work.
My concern for online learning is that it is not effective for young learners. My kids love their iPads when they play games or watch shows that interest them, but sitting for lessons and doing school work on them is another story. My daughter has fallen behind as a result of the shutdown, and continuing online learning will only make it more difficult for her to catch up.
But sending my kids back to campus means risking that they’ll get sick. There will be parents put in tough situations if their child gets sick. Some might have to choose between losing a job they depend on because they can’t find a babysitter or sending their sick child to school to keep their job.
All of this is weighing on parents who only want the best for their kids. For working parents who can’t afford to stay home with their kids or pay for expensive child care, and for students who are falling behind without face-to-face instruction, there seem to be no good options. We can only hope for an end to the pandemic and a return to normalcy.