Soft closures of schools and a switch to online learning is hitting working parents hard.
“I think what stresses me out the most is that even though the district, the teachers, they are doing everything possible and above and beyond to give us resources, I am not a parent that has time to dedicate to that,” said Kika Vila-Nova, a Lehi mom.
Vila-Nova, a single mother, works for a software company and has a daughter enrolled in fifth grade at Fox Hollow Elementary School. Her daughter is one of the Alpine School District’s more than 80,000 students who have transitioned to exclusively online learning as of mid-March, with soft closures of schools statewide planned to last until at least May 1. In the meantime, the district has distributed more than 12,000 Chromebooks to students as facilities have been locked and closed to the public.
Schools have been closed to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19, a novel strain of coronavirus. There were more than 800 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Utah, as of the afternoon of March 30, with 57 of those cases diagnosed in Utah County, according to the Utah Department of Health. There have been four deaths attributed to the virus.
Vila-Nova has been working until 5 p.m. or 6 p.m., at which time she’s tired from her workday.
“In my household, it has been very stressful,” she said.
Her daughter’s schoolwork lasts a couple of hours every day. Vila-Nova, who is from Brazil, hasn’t been in elementary school for decades, was taught different curriculum and said she isn’t in the best position to help clarify things for her daughter. She has also never been trained to be a teacher or a homeschool parent. The situation has required a lot of trust between parent and child.
“I cannot be that educational resource she needs right now, so I feel bad because I am not up to that level, and we can do our best,” Vila-Nova said. “We are going to keep doing our best.”
With children stuck inside for most of the day, she said they’re frustrated and miss their friends and routines. She saw an email from a principal stating that mental health is important during this time and to make sure that children are happy and not stressed. Vila-Nova is thankful for teachers but also wants her daughter to have time every day to play.
“I want her to read, I want her to write, I want her to be as on top of things as she can be,” she said. “But you’re a child, and go out, and play and get dirty in the mud and fall off your bike.”
For Jenny Uyema, a working Lehi mom of four children, COVID-19 has required sacrifices from the entire family. She has a fifth grader, a seventh grader, a preschool, and a toddler. She recently took the two youngest out of their daycare due to COVID-19 safety concerns.
She’s been able to do her work as a business analyst from home.
“It has been busy and hard to manage everything,” Uyema said.
Her children have been good at working independently and haven’t needed a lot of help. Her husband works part-time from home and part-time from his workplace, which has helped as Uyema continues her traditional office hours from their home. Their new normal has led to some adjustments. They’ve had to set a new routine, which includes the older children taking turns doing online school and watching their younger siblings. Uyema said it’s more balanced in the mornings when her husband is home and help with their schoolwork without worrying about the younger children. The first few days of online schooling were rough as Uyema was inundated with emails from teachers.
“It was just really hard to keep track of what the expectations are for online learning because the students didn’t have a chance to get those instructions as planned,” she said.
During the first few weeks, her fifth grader had more schoolwork than her seventh grader. That changed after one of her middle schooler’s teachers sent out an email stating that half of the students were failing, and they’d receive a reduced workload.
Uyema can take breaks throughout the day to help her children if they need her. She said the experience has helped her to develop more empathy for parents of children with special needs or learning disabilities.
She and her husband still have jobs, which they see as a luxury, and she has sick time and vacation she can use if she needs to take a day off to help her children catch up on their work.
She knows that the change has required her two oldest to help out more.
“It is kind of hard for the older kids who are in school,” Uyema said. “They have to take on more of their summertime responsibilities with their siblings when I’m working.”
She’s also missing the alone time that her old commute gave her.
“I get to kind of have a little transition time from having my work hat on to having my mom hat on, where working from home I have to have both hats on,” she said.