Facing “Back to School” during the Coronavirus Pandemic

July 17, 2020

Facing the Future of School during the Pandemic

With school districts around the country announcing their plans to re-open (or not),  and states grapple with social distancing and safety measures to keep the outbreak in check, many parents are confused and distressed, unsure of how to help their children this fall.

Los Angeles and San Diego have announced that schools will remain closed during the fall semester, and online learning will be the new norm. Parents now face the stark reality that they may have to oversee their child’s schooling while also trying to manage their own careers.

Other cities, like Portland, plan to implement a hybrid back-to-school plan; children will attend class in the building for a few days each week and learn remotely for the other days.

For many parents, neither of these options may be an ideal solution. How can full-time working parents manage a child’s online lessons and successfully stay employed? An article by the New York Times—that has since gone viral—focuses on this very situation.

The reality of these school reopening plans, as the writer so aptly notes, is that parents seem to be allowed either a career or a child. Being a full-time working parent and a part-time teacher (or full-time) isn’t simply a balancing act of time but, perhaps, for some parents, an impossible expectation.

Parents may find daycare options and continue to work, others may be able to work from home, but some parents may be stuck between a rock and a hard place. Two-parent working households could be forced to drop to one income so one parent can take on the role of teacher, and this could leave families financially vulnerable.

School districts in some states may still be weighing their options, and parents may not yet know their children’s fall fates. Whether kids are learning from home full-time or part-time, parents can try to prepare now so they aren’t scrambling in August or September.

While planning ahead doesn’t necessarily alleviate the financial repercussions that may result from the pandemic and the expectations to balance work and online schooling, making plans early can help parents see what problems will need to be addressed now.

Inquire about Working from Home

If parents are already allowed to work from home, inquire about working from home during the fall, too. Many employers are probably expecting these requests; remember, these new challenges affect everyone with school-age children—albeit in different ways.

What if Your Employer Gives a Hard ‘No’?

Some industries and jobs are not conducive to working from home or the option might simply be off the table for other reasons. What should parents do if they absolutely cannot work from home as children are expected to learn remotely?

There are options. Daycares may still be open. However, there may be a waiting list. Parents also will need to budget this extra cost.

Some schools offer after-school care. Districts may be implementing a similar program during the fall. Call the district and inquire about your family’s options. Remember, many parents will face the same concerns, fears and obstacles. Your family isn’t alone.

What About Quitting a Job?

Quitting a job is not a decision to take lightly, and this may not even be an option if the household reasonably cannot live off of one income. Also, leaving an established career or a job is a very personal (and financial) decision not to be taken lightly.

Being forced to quit a job to manage the household—and a child’s schooling—during the pandemic goes back to the heart of the New York Times article. Parents should not be forced to choose between their child and their job.

Facing the Future of School during the Pandemic

How to Schedule Work, Teaching and…Everything Else

There is no magic solution to make online learning work for every family’s schedule. Some parents will continue to work full-time and enlist the help of caregivers. Others will work from home and manage lessons, too. Stay-at-home parents may have to adjust their normalcy to include a day filled with learning and enrichment.

Online learning also looks very different in each district. Some schools offer full-day classes and assignments, keeping kids engaged and busy. Other states or districts leave lessons up to the parents. Packets may be available, too, for those who don’t have access to technology.

To make online learning mimic the school day, parents can try to set up a schedule. However, some districts may arrange the school day for parents, assigning conference call times and lesson schedules.

Needing to create your own schedule? Here are a few tips:

  1.  Break up the day by subject, assigning times to every lesson.
  2.  Have a definitive start and end time.
  3.  Include some breaks in the schedule for lunch and snacks.
  4.  Don’t forget to keep kids moving; schedule P.E. and take a walk or let them go outside  and play.
  5.  Make sure assignments are completed daily so kids don’t fall behind.
  6.  If your school has an online platform, make sure parents can receive notifications. This helps you understand your child’s progress and engagement. If they aren’t turning in assignments, the system will typically send you a notice.

The upcoming school year is not going to be easy for many parents. Many will have to find childcare options and balance their professional duties with their child’s school assignments. Remember, though, most parents across the country will be facing a similar situation. If you need resources or help, reach out to your child’s school. They may be able to offer resources. The pandemic—and the consequences of shut-downs—have affected the entire country. Understand that no one is in this alone.