"In the Covid-19 economy, you’re allowed only a kid or a job."
July 2, 2020 9:48 AM   Subscribe

In the Covid-19 Economy, You Can Have a Kid or a Job. You Can’t Have Both. As the nation begins to make plans for reopening schools this fall, there is a looming childcare crisis. Many families are struggling with decisions about whether to send children to reopened child care and how to balance work and schools that may be opening on a part-time basis. posted by kellygrape (56 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'd love to see some statistics on the rise in kiddo screen time since March.
posted by gottabefunky at 9:49 AM on July 2, 2020 [4 favorites]


according to epidemiologists we COULD open schools, we just have to prioritize them over bars. But that’s too much to ask, I guess. (Edited to fix link)
posted by john_snow at 9:52 AM on July 2, 2020 [25 favorites]




Why are we not hearing a primal scream so deafening that no plodding policy can be implemented without addressing the people buried by it?

Great question!

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
posted by Alex404 at 9:56 AM on July 2, 2020 [14 favorites]


Just part of the generalized Republican push to put women back in their place.
posted by aramaic at 10:02 AM on July 2, 2020 [30 favorites]


The Chronicle of Higher Education published an article about the Florida State University policy yesterday that clarified that the policy only applies to staff and not faculty. So it's not only a bad policy that will be impossible to consistently enforce because it's intended to apply at home but it's a bad policy because it's explicitly written to apply to only a portion of the university's workforce. What a horrible way to treat (some) of your (vulnerable and already poorly treated) colleagues.
posted by ElKevbo at 10:03 AM on July 2, 2020 [26 favorites]


I make a point of having my kids show their faces in every work meeting I have, just to reinforce that they’re there, and they’re not going away.

I can’t imagine how Florida thinks they’re going to handle this policy for their staff. Not that faculty are paid anything near what they should be, but staff are quite often paid even less.
posted by Liesl at 10:14 AM on July 2, 2020 [14 favorites]


Politico, July 1, 2020: "“We need to prioritize — schools, child care, economic development,” said Natalie Dean, a biostatistician and public health expert at the University of Florida — a state that’s having one of the biggest surges right now."
posted by katra at 10:22 AM on July 2, 2020 [1 favorite]


Our school district is implementing a distancing plan for k-8th graders, but high school will be virtual.

This is senior and freshman year for my step-kids, respectively. My fiance is working from home for now, but she is a therapist doing a full load and then some of clients. We did virtual school from March to May this past school year so we've got a workable system, but it's going to be harder for our freshman to stay focused and we worry they're not really getting what they should be out of the classes compared to learning in school. If she goes back to her office I'll be able to manage, but it won't be a replacement for actual schooling.

I really feel for the kids, the separation from their friends and peers and all the experiences they're missing out on.
posted by jzb at 10:22 AM on July 2, 2020 [6 favorites]


I was so stressed out after reading this article that I had to go take a walk.
posted by the turtle's teeth at 10:26 AM on July 2, 2020 [7 favorites]


I've read a ton of people saying that schools should reopen because kids are at lower risk from covid19 but apparently there's a chance of neurological damage.
posted by simmering octagon at 10:37 AM on July 2, 2020 [2 favorites]


Me in January:
I've been a stay-at-home parent for a few years now. This year, our kiddo started pre-K and I thought to myself: "maybe it's time to reenter the job market?"

*sound effect of Charlie Brown getting knocked off the mound by a line drive*
posted by Groundhog Week at 10:39 AM on July 2, 2020 [17 favorites]


My wife and I are both lucky that our respective employers are fine with us working from home for the foreseeable future, which solves the child care problem, but it was so hard to get older critter to do her damn schoolwork and younger critter to do anything that didn't involve a screen without constant attention and oversight and we just can't provide that.

I'd love to see some statistics on the rise in kiddo screen time since March.

Much of their schoolwork is done on-line and all of their interaction with their friends is the same way. What can you do? When I was a kid I could go outside and play with friends if my parents felt I'd watched too much tv, but that's not an option now.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:39 AM on July 2, 2020 [9 favorites]


My daughter cried at least once a day about desperately missing kindergarten. I think it needs to be repeated that school is not just about education (which is unworkable anyway with two working parents) but also about socialization.

There is actual harm being done to children when we ask them to separate from their peers for long periods of time. It was the right call in the spring, especially before we knew that children were not a significant vector in the spread of Covid, but now their return to school needs to be a priority: above bars, above nail salons, above restaurants.

Much like medical professionals are now arguing that avoiding the doctor is doing actual harm to the community, keeping children home is doing actual harm to the community.

And this is not me, in any way, underestimating the pandemic. I am lucky to live in a state that takes mask wearing and social distancing seriously. I am not in denial. I just think the state needs to takes the needs of children and working parents (which are the vast majority of parents) seriously.
posted by lydhre at 10:41 AM on July 2, 2020 [37 favorites]


winterhill, do you get the sense that there's a broad swath of English society and politicians that view this as "working as intended"? I think part of why people are reacting to this as an "American issue" is because it feels like there's a healthy percentage of the power elite here that not only doesn't care if schools never open again and women are driven out of the workforce as a result, but would actually be thrilled by that outcome. It's not clear if they don't realize that the economy would be unable to recover without almost half the workforce, or if they do realize that but consider it a small price to pay to push women out of the public sphere and back into the kitchen where we belong.

If you're feeling the same open apathy-bordering-on-malice towards working mothers from your national leadership that we are in the US, I'm sorry. It really stinks. It's hard to feel like there's a contingent of politicians that would see my personal job loss as a silver lining rather than a damn shame
posted by potrzebie at 10:54 AM on July 2, 2020 [18 favorites]


Just wanted to note that the lead FPP essay is by the great Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen. :)
posted by sallybrown at 10:55 AM on July 2, 2020 [10 favorites]


There is certainly an element of society that would be happy to see public schools collapse and many parents, mostly women, driven out of the workforce in large numbers to become caretakers for their children.

There also seems to be a substantial contingent of people who think that parents working full time from home while caring for children full time at home is "not ideal" and acknowledge that it's stressful / emotionally draining / causing burn out or whatever, but don't seem to understand the extent to which it's literally impossible for a lot of people, like not just a burden but an actual impossibility, and everything is very much on the verge of collapsing at any moment when all the parents who have been functioning at the absolute edge of their breaking point... reach that breaking point. Or get called back to the office, "no excuses." Or get fired because their performance has been so poor over the past months.

These people seem to see parents complaining about having to simultaneously work full time/parent full time as just another psychological toll of the coronavirus when it's actually rapidly becoming a logistical impossibility.
posted by the turtle's teeth at 11:01 AM on July 2, 2020 [26 favorites]


As a public high school teacher in Texas, my gut is roiling with uncertainty as the summer break begins to wind to a close (school opens in mid August) and the governor and state educational board have offered absolutely no guidance about how to proceed. I feel like schools will be thrown to the wolves and I will have to make some very hard decisions about what to do about it. I love my students, but also, I am partial to me. It's hard to imagine how teachers can remain safe if school is back in, barring donning full hazmat suits!

I'm from Canada originally, and my home province of New Brunswick has been largely Covid-free for most of these Bad Times, and on social media I'm seeing friends and family post pictures of them out having fun. It has me questioning my life choices. I mean I already dislike Texas for a number of reasons, but now it feels like it is actively trying to kill me instead of merely depressing me.

I get parents' concerns and while I don't see how students returning to school, even on a limited basis, can be safe, remote learning is... not ideal. Having to teach art remotely during the end of the school year was morale-crushing for me and I imagine it was worse for the students. It feels like there is no good solution here.
posted by picea at 11:06 AM on July 2, 2020 [31 favorites]


“ I get parents' concerns and while I don't see how students returning to school, even on a limited basis, can be safe, remote learning is... not ideal.”

I’m not singling you out picea - and a sincere thank you for what you do as a teacher - but it is this very euphemism that drives our desperation.

For working parents, especially working parents of younger kids, remote learning isn’t “not ideal”: it’s impossible.
posted by lydhre at 11:16 AM on July 2, 2020 [13 favorites]


Just watching coworkers who have young kids, it all looks impossible. I read the article this morning and thought it was saying something important. It's like, everyone nods and agrees that parents and children are being put in a terrible bind, but overall the response is to shrug sympathetically. "Thoughts and prayers," rather than useful support or solutions.

(This is all over and above the huge issue that in the US, many kids rely on school breakfasts and lunch to be able to eat, among the many other critical and literally life-sustaining services that are provided by or through schools.)
posted by Dip Flash at 11:30 AM on July 2, 2020 [5 favorites]


What I would like to see is my friends without children contacting their government representatives - at ALL levels - and letting them know to prioritize children - some of the most vulnerable members of our society - in the governmental response to this pandemic. Tell your representatives to prioritize opening schools over opening your gym. Prioritize it over dining in at your favorite neighborhood restaurant. Prioritize it over allowing people to meet with their friends inside. Prioritize it over shopping for non-essentials in-person. Prioritize it over the reopening the fucking bars.

Tell your representatives the sacrifices that YOU, as a person without children, are willing to make in order to ensure that this real and significant harm that is currently being done to children - particularly children from already disadvantaged circumstances - AND to their families does not continue for one moment longer than it needs to.

Sorry if there are any spelling or grammar errors in the above, I was working until 2 am last night, you know, just the typical second shift after taking care of my two small kids while simultaneously trying to work from home in my demanding full time job ensuring the reliability of the electrical grid. Same thing my partner and I have been doing for over 100 days and counting - and yes, including working "weekends", of course - with no end in sight.
posted by Jaclyn at 11:37 AM on July 2, 2020 [37 favorites]


A reasonable plan would be:

- Plan to reopen daycares with smaller numbers and tiered risk; low risk kids/WFH parents in one group and high risk kids/parents (e.g. medical workers) in other daycares with absolutely no contact between them. Do weekly testing at least for the high risk daycares. Subsidize all of this.
- Reallocate all the youngest teachers to younger grades, keep at-risk elderly teachers doing remote work
- For younger grades (K-3?) do standard in-person classes but mandate testing every week of at least a few kids/teachers, quarantine as necessary when an outbreak flares up, quarantine notice results in guaranteed paid time off for at least 1 parent and quarantine for the whole family.
- Go increasingly virtual as the grades go up and the kids get more independent
- Provide food independently of the school system to impoverished students
- While I'm at it, flying cars and robot butlers

The severe problems are households with 3 kids in 3 different school systems, which now will all be infection conduits to a very large number of people. "High connection" individuals/families should get tested every week like medical personnel. The testing cannot be optional.

This being the USA, run by an idiot man-child and his idiot son-in-law, none of this will happen in any nuanced, complicated but workable solution, instead we will flip flop between wide open and lockdown when the corpses start piling up. The lockdowns were meant to buy us time to nationalize and scale up PPE and testing; that hasn't happened in any meaningful way (we needed 100x scaleup not 2x). Epidemiologists told us that 5M tests per week would be needed to reopen the country safely, and Trump got bored because he couldn't engage in a shouting match with a virus.

Contacting reps to prioritize testing/opening of childcare and schools is a great idea; if reps still want to prioritize nail salons and gyms, it should be time to start group daycare sessions at the reps' homes and offices.
posted by benzenedream at 11:44 AM on July 2, 2020 [11 favorites]


I am a teacher, parent of an elementary school-aged child and living with a high risk individual. My mother is also in a nursing home, so I haven't seen her since Christmas.

While I wouldn't dissuade anyone from contacting their state governments, as I understand it, the school issue is largely a federal government failure. Schools are paid for by state and local taxes - that revenue has fallen through the floor in pretty much every state. I get that it looks stupid to have bars be open (and I think they should be closed), the reason that states have tried to get those places is open is, in part, because they provide the tax revenue to run the schools. The federal government needs to be providing bailouts to the states. If you want to read more about this, see Paul Krugman or Benjy Sarlin on Twitter or their respective media outlets.
posted by Slothrop at 11:57 AM on July 2, 2020 [14 favorites]


I have to preface this by saying I am extremely privileged. But.

My dayhome recently decided it was safe enough to reopen, so this is my third week back at work (from home). My eldest would be on her phone all day at the dayhome anyhow, so I've decided to let her be her phone all day at home with me.

My husband works 10 hour days in construction, so it's just me holding down the fort. When schools and daycares abruptly shut down I had to request a formal leave from work. You cannot work a 7.5 hour day, with no other adult to help you, while a wild-hearted two-year old is running around. Even my phone conversations with HR sorting out the leave details were peppered with me unprofessionally stress-shrieking "Nine-year old! Could you PLEASE GET TWO-YEAR OLD OFF THE TABLE!!".

(I am incredibly lucky to live in Canada where I was able to get $4000 during my unpaid time off, plus an extra $600 child benefit in June. Without the daycare expense, it was close enough to my salary).

Come September, I may be back to having to choose between having a children and having a job again. Let's assume the dayhome stays open (best case scenario). That leaves my nine-year old. The school board has until August 1st to release their plan, but I can't imagine it will not involve a large portion of online learning. My nine-year old has learning challenges and ADHD. She is not an independent learner. She will not work without me reading the lessons, explaining the lessons and forcing her to do the lessons - and this hurts our relationship because too often it devolves into yelling and tears on both of our parts.

Meanwhile, my career. Men have already been promoted ahead of me (this dates back to my mat leave). They just let go of a whole bunch of contractors. I work for a health insurance company, so all the lay offs - from the city, the province, the schools, the airlines - mean a loss of profits because those companies are not paying us for those former employees' benefits anymore. While I'm not working, I'm not paying into my pension. I'm paying my own health premiums out of pocket. I'm losing seniority (I've been with the company for almost 7 years but because of my mat leave and a long-term disability leave, I'm 'officially' a 5-year. which means fewer perks). I'm not accruing vacation days when I'm not working. Etc.

So if I have to go off work again when school starts, I fade again into the background. I am invisible, expendable.

Why are we not screaming about this? I guess I'm tired? I guess I'm used to it? I guess I know there's no point?
posted by kitcat at 12:00 PM on July 2, 2020 [26 favorites]


I'm out of work, but doing some work anyway (pro bono) and pursuing a certificate. This topic makes me want to cry. I'm in a Canadian context.

On COVID-19 response: Whenever I get furious at the lack of medical and government clarity IN CANADA, and I do, I try to remember in 1981 PCP was mentioned, then "gay cancer," then GRIDS, in 1982 it was named AIDS and, it wasn't until September 1982 that there were guidelines for medical staff to avoid infection, and it was in January 1985 that HIV was fully identified. We are in early days of understanding this circulatory/respiratory disease and its true transmission vectors.

One of the benefits of the government paying for medical care is that government is both morally and financially "incentivized" to keep its population out of the ICU.

However, education is poorly understood, especially in my province where our Premier did not finish high school and our 33-year old Minister of Education went to one of the most toxic private schools in North America. We were already in a bad spot educationally here.

The reason governments both to some degree in my country (but not really; I personally am still receiving CERB) and in the US are going pro-business is because opening businesses takes people off unemployment where opening schools costs them in salaries. Our teachers did stay employed but none of the hourly support staff did as far as I know - the ed assistants, social workers, etc. I feel that Canada is doing better here, but because we have all the same rhetoric we get similar idiocy at times.*

On career and motherhood: Partly because my industry exploded, but also as the lesser-earner, it did all fall to me, and whatever solution we work out as a family for the fall, will also fall to me. As it did for maternity leaves, and the 3 surgeries my two kids have had between them, again, due to that simple calculus: who earns more.

I have no idea, zero idea, how my husbands' coworkers with kids, especially people with younger kids, are managing at all. And we are super lucky financially in that we can, for the moment, weather this.

White powerful men do not understand this because they have never, ever been the person who had to leave not just one important meeting, but mentally carry the load of childrearing throughout all their meetings. It does not surprise me in the slightest that politicians who can afford SAHPs, nannies, housekeepers, accountants, etc. do not get the on-the-ground realities of two parents who HAVE to keep their jobs having young kids at home.

* When Brian Mulroney is agitating for a guaranteed income, I dunno what is going on.

On actually schooling: Getting both my kids (grade 3 and grade 9, going into 4 and 10) through their school year was grueling. Once I understood that a big part of it was me trying to follow the teacher's curriculum/standards rather than putting my energy into teaching, it got easier to teach my 9 year old, but harder to deal with the school. With my older child I could take more of a coaching role.

The second is that the mechanics of school (move classrooms, sit down, get dressed for recess, go to the lunchroom) take up a lot of time. Time that, if my child spends it on a screen or staring at bugs, still has to be filled at home.

Third is that my kids see me as their mom and not their teacher. I love getting called a bad parent for not embracing distance education when I am a former editor, and have access to Google Home, and still had a 20-minute argument about whether it's is short for it is or is the possessive.

On my kids' health, mental and otherwise: Because I have lost a child to a 1:10,000 medical event, I actually am personally more comfortable with a conservative approach to reopening.

I am not sure what decisions we will make in our family, but I do know that my daughter's social development and mental health will not be an issue, because she is dead.

That doesn't mean I don't think those are factors that need to be taken very seriously and that families need some room to make their choices. But starkly, that is where I'm at with that balance.
posted by warriorqueen at 12:06 PM on July 2, 2020 [19 favorites]


according to epidemiologists we COULD open schools, we just have to prioritize them over bars. But that’s too much to ask, I guess. (Edited to fix link)

This is because we apparently also need to work out where to store the VERY LARGE ADULT SIZED CHILDREN as well.

I don't actually think schools will open in September because I think by September we will be worse off than we have ever been in this pandemic. Mobility data shows most of the US as within about 10 percent of normal mobility. People are traveling all over the place, even flying is within about 20% of normal! And those people are the very willfully dumbest and least careful amongst all Americans. We pretty much have a federal policy of superseeding dumbass
potential superspreaders in every state and the contact tracing is still pretty much non-existent and incapable of handling the current caseload never mind an exploding one.

Yet states are moving from phase to phase with gleeful abandon. You can wine! You can dine! You'll be fine! Listen to older people whine!

Just today I had ask a young dude bro to wait for another elevator and he tried to lawyer his way in. Personally, I'm not interested in the appeals process if I catch covid-19.

I'm also still stunned by the almost non-extent amount of covid-19 research on children, their infection rate and whether they can be contagious. Seems to me this is something that would be good to know before making any decisions for September. We shouldn't still be guessing 500 million infections and 500,000 deaths into a pandemic.

I am so close to deciding to take a massive financial and career hit and return to Canada because I am feeling like the frog in boiling water (even though frogs are actuallysmart enough to jump out - and perhaps as a French Canadian my frogness should be kicking in).
posted by srboisvert at 12:08 PM on July 2, 2020 [20 favorites]


The severe problems are households with 3 kids in 3 different school systems, which now will all be infection conduits to a very large number of people.

I'll have three kids in school in the fall: a kindergartener, a freshman at a magnet high school STEM program, and a senior at a different high school. Oh, and the elder two are split custody in a house with a first-grader at a fourth school. Three of the four parents can work from home; the fourth is a municipal employee whose workplace is implementing some pretty good countermeasures, but....

And this is in a state and a city that have been taking it seriously (with some hiccups in the haste to reopen and nakedly partisan idiocy). It's not going to work, and I'm more worried about it now than I was in March.
posted by Etrigan at 12:27 PM on July 2, 2020 [5 favorites]


Speaking as a teacher, I think we're all anxious to get to some sense of normalcy, but there just hasn't been planning on how to do that safely. Most states that have released plans have made students wearing masks optional or, in some cases, not permitted. Meanwhile, there's no federal or state money coming forth for PPE for teachers, while local taxes that pay for schools have dropped precipitously. Some schools around me are cutting teachers, making for unusually large class sizes next year, without any plans for how to make social distancing in person work.

I can't emphasize enough how much this is a federal failure: without federal money, states are having to cut local aid at a time when local budgets are also being slashed and when aid is needed the most. Districts simply don't have the money to purchase PPE for staff, let alone increased cleaning supplies, let alone additional school nurses that are likely to be needed, let alone improvements in digital resources that could help maintain social distancing.

I haven't found a single case in which teachers or teachers' unions have been consulted about what teachers feel they need to go back to school safely. Quite a few teachers I know (mostly with medical conditions that increase their risk) are talking about resigning or taking unpaid FMLA time rather than return in person without adequate protection.

It's tough for me to read these sort of threads because we tend to elide "opening schools' impact on children" and "opening schools' impact on staff". It may be that kids are less contagious and less likely to develop complications, but teachers aren't. It's frustrating to be underpaid (and possibly face pay cuts) and not even be seeing a plan for basic health protections.

That doesn't take away from the fact that parents are, quite reasonably, worried about what they're going to do with their kids in September (or, indeed, Aug 15 in some states). I just hate that these conversations are sometimes turning into teachers vs. parents when I really think we all want the same things.
posted by thegears at 12:34 PM on July 2, 2020 [36 favorites]


thegears, I'm genuinely sorry that you have experienced these conversations turning into parents vs teachers. I have many friends who are BOTH parents and teachers. The entire situation is completely impossible for all involved and the fact that school funding is being slashed right now is absurd.

Schools should be palaces and our teachers should be safe and money should be poured into making our children and teachers and support staff safe. Children can't go back to school without their teachers.
posted by kellygrape at 12:39 PM on July 2, 2020 [3 favorites]


My husband is a high school teacher and has a health condition that puts him at increased risk for covid complications. Our oldest kid is going into first grade, our youngest should be in daycare. I feel like all the possibilities for fall are terrifying. I keep drawing elaborate matrices of "who's in school" and "who's at home" and trying to come up with *any scenario* for the four of us that seems remotely workable and compatible with our safety, mental health, and financial stability.
posted by beandip at 12:42 PM on July 2, 2020 [11 favorites]


How's the school reponing planning going? Just fine!

More than 40 Bay Area school principals exposed to coronavirus during in-person meeting
posted by srboisvert at 1:04 PM on July 2, 2020 [12 favorites]


katra: Politico, July 1, 2020: "“We need to prioritize — schools, child care, economic development,” said Natalie Dean, a biostatistician and public health expert at the University of Florida — a state that’s having one of the biggest surges right now."

The economy IS PEOPLE, ya dummies!

In a pandemic, when lots of people get sick, ICU beds are full beyond capacity, and more people are dying, this impacts the economy.

U.S. Conservatives turned this into a political battle for what I'm guessing is some hope for further entrenching of Us vs Them, instead of Us vs COVID-19, so we get this tragic comparison of graphs (Worldmeters.info; archived screencap).

By comparison, New Zealand had 24 days of no new cases, and the two new positive tests were people traveling in from the UK (NPR, June 16, 2020). Look at those statistics! (Health.govt.NZ with live statistics; archived screenshot). Yes, it's a much smaller, island nation, but let's refer back to that Worldmeters graph, and mourn for the lives lost with no other reason than the idiot in charge is so selfish and fragile that he thinks a mask will make him look weak.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:06 PM on July 2, 2020 [11 favorites]


Don't forget Trump is a guy who runs hotels and golf courses, and whose income is dependent on tourism (when it's not empty hotel rooms being booked by Saudis).
posted by benzenedream at 3:02 PM on July 2, 2020 [1 favorite]


I have never been happier to have no kids, and it is something my partner and I have regularly rejoiced for years. But it is also clear to me that this situation is untenable. I am not planning on going to a restaurant or bar for years, so feel free to close them down. But it is not clear that there is a safe option for schools, aside from taking the virus seriously and doing the things we need to do to bring the risk down to an acceptable level. If this carries on for years, I can also imagine people choosing not to have kids.
posted by snofoam at 3:04 PM on July 2, 2020 [5 favorites]


If wages weren't so appauling that you needed 2.5 FTEs to run a house with a small family, this wouldn't be anywhere near as bad of a problem.
posted by krisjohn at 3:12 PM on July 2, 2020 [19 favorites]


I’ve been trying to talk to people about this impossibility of working and homeschooling/caring for small children for months. Much primal screaming has been occurring via my working mom friend group text, but we have no solutions. Our employers are not supporting us. The school district said they won’t release any info until some state meeting in late July. One of my group text friends opted to send her toddler back to daycare. One is sending her kid to summer day camp starting in July. One is letting her kids go feral at home and taking family leave every Friday before they all explode. My husband took this week off and I’m taking next week off to spend 1:1 time with our 7-year-old before he explodes, but it is feeling like too little, too late. I have no idea what’s going to happen in the fall, I just feel like the brick wall of doom is getting closer and closer and we’re on an inevitable collision course.

But I’m thankful to still have a job with the exact health insurance my child needs, so I don’t want to raise too much of a fuss, and thus I just try to survive like every other working parent in this fucking country.
posted by Maarika at 3:16 PM on July 2, 2020 [10 favorites]


My only suggestion is to have a group of households split days like a carpool-- so Family A takes all the kids on Monday while Families B-G work, and Family B takes all the kids on Tuesday, etc., and to hell with the school system. But that requires a degree of coordination that is ridiculous to ask, especially when you're considering employers who aren't going to be willing to give someone a random Tuesday off, or people who don't have flexibility with their schedule.
posted by blnkfrnk at 3:29 PM on July 2, 2020 [4 favorites]


I thought this was a very interesting Siderea essay about how the role of public school as childcare has gone unmentioned for so long. It's not factored into the economic thought process around school--it's a big old hole in calculations about the economy. So we have no vocabulary to discuss it, and a lot of people are trying to keep not talking about it, because the math works better that way.
posted by gideonfrog at 4:02 PM on July 2, 2020 [10 favorites]


Perelman's article spread like wildfire this morning among my broader social circle of female parents. I really appreciate her focus on the logistical/financial challenges to families and her emphasis that this is just not about emotional stress. I think one of the reasons there hasn't been an explosive cry in the media about it is that most parents just don't have the time to write thought-pieces on the issue. We're being pulled in too many directions at once.

Personally, I have to send my kids back to school in the fall. Our district hasn't announced the plan yet, but it looks like most districts in WA state will have a "hybrid option" with 2 days in-person for K-5 students. My kids have suffered from the closure. My older child is autistic, and the weak-sauce online home learning was not engaging for her at all. She needs the routines and supports of in-person schooling. She did not receive any of the supports/instruction detailed in her IEP. She's still pretty young and we can't just leave her to her assignments without adult input. My younger daughter, already sensitive and prone to anxiety, is not doing so well with the isolation from her peers. She had been receiving private speech therapy via telehealth but we had to discontinue it because it was causing her to rage out in frustration -- I think she finds the screens alienating, in some way. So my kids need those in-person educational opportunities.

I sent them to day-camp this week so I could finish a work project that's been lingering unfinished since March. We don't have a lot of options available to us when things are "normal", because we have to be careful about what kind of childcare situations we put older daughter in, and now ... sheesh. It's just terrible.

I have so much to say, but gotta get back to work.
posted by stowaway at 4:12 PM on July 2, 2020 [11 favorites]


The federal government needs to be providing bailouts to the states.

Democrats in the House passed the $3 trillion HEROES Act in May. It provides aid to states so they can strengthen their health systems and fund their schools. It has been sitting dead on Mitch McConnell's desk for six weeks. Trump has vowed to veto it.
posted by JackFlash at 5:18 PM on July 2, 2020 [7 favorites]


Democrats in the House passed the $3 trillion HEROES Act in May.

I am very happy to amend my suggestion to "Republicans in the Senate need to get onboard with a federal government aid package to the states."
posted by Slothrop at 5:39 PM on July 2, 2020 [2 favorites]


I wish the information was clearer about whether children can spread it. What I do know is that I've seen a lot of articles making definitive claims that children don't get it, spread it, or transmit it to adults very much, but when you read to the bottom, those claims are usually based a few case studies of schools here or there where children were infected but didn't spread it. I keep seeing what I think are unconscionably sure statements even from government officials:
"Young children are not infected and do not transmit the virus," Switzerland's infectious diseases chief, Daniel Koch, said at a news conference on April 29...

The Dutch government — which reopened primary schools on May 11 and plans to reopen secondary schools on June 2 — also reported that "children play a small role in the spread of the novel coronavirus." The conclusion was based on the government data on transmission among 54 Dutch households.
But this certitude seems deeply misguided:
in one study released by Christian Drosten, Germany's chief virologist, researchers wrote that they "found no significant difference" in the viral loads of the new coronavirus "between any pair of age categories, including children." Based on their findings, the researchers concluded that "[c]hildren may be as infectious as adults," and recommended that countries practice "caution against an unlimited re-opening of schools and kindergartens in the present situation."...

A recent study in The Lancet, however, found that children in Shenzhen, China, were just as likely to be infected with the coronavirus as adults: Children under 10 had a 7.4% infection rate compared to 6.6% for the general population....

recent surveys conducted in Wuhan and Shanghai found that when schools were open, children had about three times as many contacts — either brief in-person conversations or physical interactions such as a handshake — as adults. The researchers determined that closing schools reduced peak infections in these cities by up to 60%....

while the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) has said data indicates that "children are unlikely to be primary source cases" for Covid-19, Alexandru Niculae, a spokesperson for the agency, told Vox that the data currently available "cannot be considered as 'enough evidence'" to definitively state that children cannot transmit the disease...

"Are any of these studies definitive? The answer is 'No, of course not,'" Jeffrey Shaman, an epidemiologist at Columbia University, told the New York Times. "To open schools because of some un-investigated notion that children aren't really involved in this, that would be a very foolish thing."
As those final passages make clear, it is deeply wrong to be sure that children don't spread it. It's possible they don't, maybe even more likely than not that they don't, but I don't think anyone can rationally conclude that there isn't a fairly large chance they do. Just look at 20-year-olds -- a few weeks ago everyone seemed to be in similar agreement that they don't spread it very much either. People desperately want it to be the case that kids don't spread it -- myself included -- and that seems to be leading to the same sort of motivated reasoning that is propelling so much premature reopening.

Given that substantial possibility that children do spread it, to each other, to teachers, to parents, it seems really irresponsible to be reopening schools. I get the need -- I understand the economic arguments, I understand the arguments for kids' mental health and nutrition, and I understand the arguments for the sake of the parents. I am a parent with two young children, and we are like everyone else hanging on by a thread. But there remains a substantial chance that opening schools will end up killing thousands more people and risking the lives of parents everywhere. I don't think the benefits are worth the chance of that much death, even if the other side of the ledger is also heavy, and find myself in the impossible position of being expected to return my children to school in order to return to work when I think it is societally irresponsible to be doing so absent much more definitely evidence that doing so won't lead to massive amounts of infection and death.
posted by chortly at 7:00 PM on July 2, 2020 [16 favorites]


The easiest thing to do, which is of course therefore the thing that will happen, is to not open the schools (politician cannot be blamed for saving lives) and then also demand that the parents behave as though the schools were open (politician cannot be blamed for saving the economy, because now the "bad guys" are the company bosses, who of course hold the purse strings so obviously nobody can really blame them because hey being able to eat is a nice thing).

Everybody wins!

(Seriously, look at FSU. This is what will happen.)
posted by aramaic at 7:10 PM on July 2, 2020 [5 favorites]


No one is hearing my primal scream because I have no free time to compose one. No one hears me screaming anyway, and it's bad for the kid to have a mom who is full of rage. So I spend my extremely limited free time doing anger management. This gets me nothing, but every day that I don't lose my temper is a victory.
posted by Vatnesine at 7:34 PM on July 2, 2020 [10 favorites]


I'm caught up in this, I've been watching my career slowly evaporate for the last few months as my new job (full-time dad) takes over. Could be worse, certainly, but still. I worked hard for that career, dammit!

Anyway it's never been more apparent that those that make public policy are far removed from those that live it. Child care is absolutely essential to things returning to 'normal' yet it seems to be an afterthought, probably because it's not a problem for our 'leaders'.

And as frustrating as this is to me it's got to be 100 times worse for a woman, who's had to work hard and swim upstream, only to be given no option but the traditional woman's role.

I tell ya it's enough to make a man cynical.
posted by Admiral Viceroy at 7:40 PM on July 2, 2020 [7 favorites]


fwiw...
Why children rarely develop serious Covid-19 symptoms, how susceptible they are to getting infected and why they don’t appear to be effective spreaders of the disease are among the most discussed riddles of the epidemic among scientists.

One reason for the absence of infections in schools could be that children below 10 have fewer of the receptors the virus uses to enter the body, said Prof. Herman Goossens, a medical microbiologist and coordinator of a European Union task force for researching Covid-19.

The number of so-called ACE2 receptors in some cells in the upper respiratory tract that the novel coronavirus uses as a gateway only starts to increase from the age of 10, making younger children comparatively less susceptible, he said.
> Go increasingly virtual as the grades go up and the kids get more independent

what I think the best plan for reopening school is:
TL;DR: reopen elementary schools but not most middle/high schools; online learning option for everyone; facilitate online learning with small groups/coaching and have only a few teachers focus on content delivery...

Elementary is more important to reopen than middle/high school because elementary students need more supervision at home as well as being less likely to transmit the virus...

Other caveats: Daycares need to reopen simultaneously so that teachers with young children can work. Busing is really hard to figure out (thus my recommendation that everyone is assigned to the nearest school) and even more of an issue in rural areas.
like when germany began planning reopening in april, it wasn't an afterthought: "'emergency care' services will be provided to parents of small children who have to go to work."

also btw...
Coronavirus burdens working moms twice as much as dads, study finds - "Mothers in Germany employed outside the home are impacted twice as much as fathers by work and child care, a study has shown. That means moms should get compensation to make up for salary losses, the study recommended."

oh and on the college front... posted by kliuless at 10:16 PM on July 2, 2020 [7 favorites]


My employer has been nothing but understanding, as I needed first personal medical leave and then family leave when our second kid was born.

And yet, after >20 years in my field, I can read the room. I know I'm being noticed as "not the most likely to drop everything and make a meeting time work," and "that guy? the one who was gone for three months in his first year on the job? I _guess_ I remember that guy..."

In another five weeks my wife returns to FT work as her (unpaid) maternal leave ends. I have another (paid) month of family leave theoretically available to me, but minimal confidence I can take it and still have a job to come back to.

Meanwhile we have an older kid who was just getting started on a six month program for kids with sensory and emotional regulation issues, which...is no longer a thing, because neither is that program running nor is there a kindergarten classroom waiting to necessitate or help him practice normal social skills.

Even with just about every advantage possible aside from oligarchic wealth my family is struggling. My heart goes out to everyone faced with even more stark, immediate choices being demanded of them right now.
posted by rcoder at 8:42 AM on July 3, 2020 [8 favorites]


Even with the struggles I laid out above, I don't want schools to reopen. I'm really afraid it's going to be an absolute gong show full of starts and stops as little outbreaks (or big ones?) occur. Teachers are going to lose their minds from the stress. And so are parents.

I just don't have a solution, though. I know I'm missing some major drawbacks with this approach, but couldn't online learning could be improved *not in quality, but for the sake of parents* if the teachers were really TEACHING rather than posting assignments online in google classroom and being available for help? My daughter's teacher did an awesome job and focused on just being there for the kids, talking to them and showing them love and attention. It was for 1 hour, three days a week. But it's got to look different in September. I realize this is NOT the teacher's fault, but when things shut down, the labor of teaching was passed to the parents. This is not going to be tenable going forward.

I don't have a lot of ideas, but I would prefer if Monday through Friday there was a solid 3 to 5 hours of online virtual classroom time. That would mean my child would be sitting there watching and listening to her teacher and following instructions to read this, write that, etc. in real time.

I hope this makes sense. Let's say they actually have in person school for half days, or half of the week. If I have to be the 'teacher' the rest of the time and be the one who directs her - "OK, let's look at your assignments for today. Now watch this video about long division. Ok, here's how you do it. You try. Ok, you made a little mistake here, let's fix it. Now it's time for you to read. I know you don't want to but you have to...yadda yadda yadda" I don't see how I am going to be able to work, not full time.
posted by kitcat at 10:28 AM on July 3, 2020 [5 favorites]


couldn't online learning could be improved *not in quality, but for the sake of parents* if the teachers were really TEACHING rather than posting assignments online in google classroom and being available for help?

In my (urban) district the school board made the decision to go asynchronous because of access issues, the idea being that students who have to share devices with siblings or who have spotty internet aren't able to log on at a set time every day.

A friend who teaches middle school in a suburban district reported that they did organize the school day like this though, 4 one hour classes a day and all classes involve FaceTime. In another district, they did the same thing (4 synchronous classes a day) but also made Wednesday a makeup/enrichment day for students.

In short, the decisions are being made district by district...but you are absolutely right, asynchronous learning does not work for the majority of students and they are 1000x better off when they can see their teacher and other students on the screen.

The teachers who were the most successful this year had mandatory FaceTime and focused on running their classes exactly as they would run them in school, but online....

By the end of quarantine, I had several students telling me they woke up for my 2pm daily office hours, and then went back to sleep afterward.
posted by subdee at 10:54 AM on July 3, 2020 [5 favorites]


Why children rarely develop serious Covid-19 symptoms, how susceptible they are to getting infected and why they don’t appear to be effective spreaders of the disease are among the most discussed riddles of the epidemic among scientists... Elementary is more important to reopen than middle/high school because elementary students need more supervision at home as well as being less likely to transmit the virus.

Once again, these statements are made as certainties with almost no links to actual science backing that up. And when you do pursue those threads, they again end up in a small number of observational studies that all have the weaknesses mentioned above: children are mainly asymptomatic and have been out of school for most of the worst periods in most countries. Again, there are plenty of reasons they may not spread it, but also plenty of reasons to think they might, and being sure about it seems like exactly the same mistake we've made over and over: "Hey, maybe it will turn out ok, let's give it a shot and see what happens." That's been a disastrous response so far, from the beginning of things to reopening to the similar assumptions that were being made about 20-year-olds until about three weeks ago when all of that was violently disproven. The American Academy of Pediatrics is a particularly egregious example of this:
the AAP strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school....SARS-CoV-2 appears to behave differently in children and adolescents than other common respiratory viruses, such as influenza, on which much of the current guidance regarding school closures is based. Although children and adolescents play a major role in amplifying influenza outbreaks, to date, this does not appear to be the case with SARS-CoV-2. Although many questions remain, the preponderance of evidence indicates that children and adolescents are less likely to be symptomatic and less likely to have severe disease resulting from SARS-CoV-2 infection. In addition, children may be less likely to become infected and to spread infection.
A "preponderance" criterion makes sense when the upside and downside risks are balanced, but when the downside risk is mass death, "may" and "preponderance" are really not the right criteria. We need to be pretty damn sure before potentially pouring the same sort of gasoline on children and their families as we currently are with people in their 20s.
posted by chortly at 12:10 PM on July 3, 2020 [4 favorites]


Also, something that I haven't heard anyone talking about it what happens when an entire young family gets it. This is the scenario that absolutely scares the shit out of me. My kids get mildly sick, and then my husband and I get seriously ill. We have to take care of them alone; no one can help us. Meanwhile, we can barely get out of bed? One or both of us end up in the hospital? I feel like this will start happening when schools resume. I hope it's just an idle fear.
posted by kitcat at 12:23 PM on July 3, 2020 [15 favorites]


With regard to asynchronous learning: my (rural/suburban, and mostly affluent) district opted to be entirely asynchronous in the spring, for two reasons. The first was what subdee said -- access issues for multi-child households. The second was that many of our students with part time jobs at local grocery stores or drive-thru restaurants suddenly found themselves "essential employees." We heard through counselors and principals that several students had been essentially promoted to breadwinners after their parents were laid off. Many others were babysitting or tutoring younger siblings during their parents' work hours. Making sure the high school students were able to both work and keep up with school was a major factor in keeping those classes asynchronous. That said, asynchronous learning did not work for most of my students. I had a few whose work improved during the spring (and one told me directly that being able to work when she felt like it was the reason), but many more, including some of my strongest students pre-shutdown, struggled hard.

Meanwhile, I have a four-year-old whose daycare opened up a month ago. We've been sending him, because A) it's a small private daycare taking all reasonable precautions and B) as an only child who hadn't interacted with anyone except his parents since March, he was going absolutely bonkers at home: drunk on screentime, prone to meltdowns, and falling back into baby/toddler habits. Currently, his daycare plans to be open through the fall unless they're ordered to close (or unless someone gets sick and they have to go into quarantine), which at least would simplify our situation at home.

This spring, I was the stay-at-home parent because, well, I was the parent at home; my partner works in medical billing and her boss refused to let the billing team work from home. I made it through the spring mostly sane, but only because the expectations for distance learning were so incredibly low for my content area (foreign language -- we had to produce one lesson per week, with the expectation that students should be able to complete it within one hour). Under those restrictions, and since we'd completed three-quarters of the school year, I spent most of distance learning focusing on cultural lessons. Since I was creating new activities to fit the distance learning requirements, I could make one really good lesson per week and assign it across all three of the levels I teach (with differentiation as needed). The rest of the time went to grading (which turned out to take me longer online), prepping resource bundles for upcoming lessons, and communicating with students, parents, and admin.

But this fall, I'll need to teach language content. I'll need more lessons per week, and I'll have to create separate assignments for each course level. Obviously I can do this in the classroom, and as long as daycare is open, I can cope with increased distance learning expectations from home. But if daycare has to close again? There's no way. It would literally not be possible.
posted by Daughter of Time at 2:43 PM on July 3, 2020 [7 favorites]


Thanks Daughters of Time for bringing up how many students were working. A lot of my students who'd been doing okay before the quarantine really struggled and it's because they were working full time, watching younger siblings full time or looking after older family members full time. (And a few of them got sick themselves.)

And I'm also with Daughters of Time that teaching new lessons online in the fall will be much harder than finishing up the last four months of the year. In March, the district starts to shift into test-prep mode and a lot of instructional time is taken up preparing for or taking state tests... With none of those tests this year we had some freedom to adapt to what the students were able to learn online.

Unless the tests are also cancelled next year, we're gonna be expected to follow the cirrcliculum and doing that online with a new group will be pretty difficult...

One further note, I handled the supply order for the department this year and a lot of teachers wanted extra hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, etc to come out of the department supply list. But we don't even have a budget for text year. The school isn't even ordering supplies until at least September, we're just expected to use what we already have. It's all really scary and uncertain and I think a lot of teachers working for the district will decide not to come back, which will put even more pressure on the rest of us.
posted by subdee at 4:04 PM on July 3, 2020 [5 favorites]


My nightmare scenario for the fall is what the district next to mine is planning to do: schools will be open, but there will be an online option for anyone who wants to use it. I am the only person in the district who teaches my subject, so I am entirely responsible for adapting the curriculum, planning lessons, and designing assignments. This gives me a lot of freedom, but when you multiply the workload by the number of levels I teach, it's a lot of work. I can't give my normal classroom assignments online, and if I make new assignments for online learning, I can't use them in the classroom, where kids have access to more resources and my real-time feedback; it wouldn't be equitable to the kids working from home. That kind of dual access set-up, which seems like an acceptable compromise in many regards, would double my workload -- and there's just no way I could manage it.
posted by Daughter of Time at 5:15 PM on July 3, 2020 [6 favorites]


Right as the pandemic really took off, my son became very sick. He slowly started to starve to death in front of my eyes despite everything we and the doctors tried. He lost 85 pounds in one month.

The turn around was diagnosing him with an autoimmune disease, and the medication to manage his survival destroys the immune system further.

His doctor was very frank, if my son contracts Covid-19, he will die.

He can't go back to school until there's a vaccine and a reliable treatment.

He's also disabled in a more dependent way where he can't be left alone. I'm a single mom.

This means that I can't hire someone to come in and out of my house to watch him and expose us, nor can he go to school.

I'm a school bus driver currently unemployed, but if school starts up I can't go back and risk bringing the virus back. I'm looking for remote work, but so are a lot of people.

Life is extremely hard. The national support net isn't there. It just isn't.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 6:13 AM on July 5, 2020 [13 favorites]


I read the comments on the article and so many people used the ScHoOl IsN'T dAyCaRe line that i think it's been coopted by the forces that want women barefoot in the kitchen.

Do the people saying this think that there will magically be a bunch of new daycares to handle schools worths of children so parents can work? Will these daycares be funded or will parents be stuck with a new bill for a couple grand every month? Who will work at these daycares? Teachers that aren't working? Then why not just open schools...

But of course they don't expect any daycares or schools to relieve the parents. What they are really trying to say is mom is the new free daycare and she's getting no government support for it
posted by WeekendJen at 9:45 AM on July 8, 2020 [3 favorites]


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