Essential worker parents struggle with remote school
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President-elect Joe Biden has said safely reopening schools will be one of his top priorities in his first 100 days in office. Remote school has put enormous strain on parents, perhaps none more so than those front-line workers who can’t do their jobs from home.
On a rare weekday off recently, Los Angeles mom Patricia Reveles played teacher’s aide to her 9-year-old daughter Isabela.
“She did her class, she did her homework, now she’s reading a book,” Reveles said.
Students in Los Angeles have been learning remotely since March. Most days Isabela stays with her grandmother while Reveles, a single mom, goes to work as a pharmacy technician.
“I have to push my daughter,” she said. “You know, ‘you have to learn to be on your own, you have to be dependent on yourself.'”
Reveles said her daughter is struggling: Her grades have slipped and she’s constantly down on herself.
“I feel at a point that I am failing as a parent, that if I do go to work, I’m not here as a parent full time and being a good parent,” Reveles said.
Essential workers like Reveles are disproportionately women of color, often earning low wages and risking their health to work. They’ve been hailed as heroes, but as parents, they face impossible choices.
“I’ve had parents call me and say, ‘If my child can’t come to your learning center, I’m going to lose my job,'” said Betty West who runs a network of distance learning centers for the nonprofit Imprints Cares in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
In socially distanced, small groups, the learning centers help kids with remote classes while parents are at work at a cost of $215 a week.
“Our working families pretty much budget for before- and after-school care and summer programming. This was not in their budget,” West said.
With donations, the organization has been able to subsidize or completely cover the cost for many families. But such programs aren’t always set up to help students who need intensive support.
“No one knew what to do to help our kids, and that’s heartbreaking,” said Clara Washington, whose 9-year-old daughter Jayla has been diagnosed with autism and is partially nonverbal.
Her Rochester, New York, school district has been remote since March.
“She did not understand why her classmates and teachers were on the computer,” Washington said. “She didn’t understand that.”
Jayla needs one-on-one attention, but Washington is a single mom and works as an office manager for a surgery practice. She takes paid family leave one day a week, and hires a babysitter for the rest, rushing home on her lunch break to check in on classes.
“Basically, all my savings are gone due to child care,” Washington said. “And [I’m] behind on bills, extremely behind on bills. But I have to do what I have to do for my daughter.”
Rochester schools are set to begin reopening in January, but like pretty much all plans, they’re at the mercy of the virus.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?
This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.
Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?
India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.
Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?
As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.
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