Talk to one parent and you’ll hear just one perspective of thousands when it comes to reopening schools. But for working parents in particular, the hybrid model that envisages a mix of in-school and remote learning poses real challenges.
“There’s definitely an issue with child care when it comes to the hybrid model. You know, who will be watching my children when I’m at work?” said mom Lauren Sbarro-Fernandez. “To not send my children back at all would probably be my best option, because by limiting their exposure to all of these students, I actually have more child care options.”
Numerous plans are coming from school districts. Metuchen has followed the guidance of epidemiologists, said superintendent Vincent Caputo.
“So we’re doing full days every other week and that will go for all of our schools. Half-day only exacerbates those child care issues for parents. More importantly is our instruction, right? Secondly to safety is instruction. That’s our primary function in schools. So any time you cut the day in half, you’re going to reduce half the instructional time,” said Caputo.
For students to keep pace during their week at home, they’ll need to follow that full day of learning remotely. It’s something many working parents can’t supervise, especially as businesses reopen.
Jessica Marozine’s kids will spend their weeks out of school at the local YMCA that will help to fill those gaps.
“I’m so thankful that they’ll be able to do the schooling there and it’s not just, send them for a week and then me having to deal with the work when I get home,” she said.
But that wouldn’t be the case for Sbarro-Fernandez. “I would probably have to work with them once I got home from teaching during the day,” she said.
Murphy wants federal aid
Many working families are struggling to afford added child care costs on top of frozen or reduced salaries. Gov. Phil Murphy has said child care concerns are an issue of equity. He has pushed for at least some in-person instruction and said that federal dollars are needed to offset the costs.
“So you’ve got a lot of families in the state where either both mom and dad, or you’ve got a single parent, and they have no choice but to work. And so, therefore if you don’t provide them that alternative, they’re cornered in terms of having to find some way to take care of their child if their child is not in a physical classroom,” Murphy said during Wednesday’s coronavirus news briefing. “If Congress could come across the goal line with a big slug of federal cash and the president were to sign that, that could make a difference.”
“So luckily the Y’s been very generous to me and they’ve been able to work with my budget, but it’s still going to be very tight because that’s money that you weren’t expecting to spend for the year,” said Marozine.
Marozine is a single mom of two who’ll have to leave her job once a day to drive her kids to the Y. There are close to 400 YMCA aftercare programs across New Jersey that care for more than 3,500 kids. Many operate in schools, and their budgets will also be affected by new guidelines that include smaller groups per teacher.
“If you have district A that’s going every other week, and you have district B that’s half days or two days a week or three days a week, at no point can we co-mingle groups of children,” said Rose Cushing, public policy chair for the YMCA State Alliance.
Metuchen is designating a child care service called BASC as essential staff so they can operate in the school building. It’s something that many districts won’t offer.