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Family impact: Limited resources for parents who can’t work remotely once school starts

Mother trying to work from home with kids.
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SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. -— With Lake Tahoe Unified School District starting next week remotely, parents are trying to find ways to balance work and home life.

The LTUSD has plans to eventually go to a hybrid model with the ultimate goal of returning to standard instruction but while COVID-19 spread continues to be a threat, school is being held remotely.

Parents of younger students who can’t stay home alone are looking for places for their students to stay during the day.

This is compounding the already existing issue of the lack of child care in the community.

According to a presentation from Elizabeth Blakemore, Director of Early Learning for the El Dorado County Office of Education gave to the Tahoe Chamber, 70% of El Dorado County families have both parents in the workforce.

“Before COVID-19, finding child care was a problem in our community,” Blakemore said. “Now, the problem is at a crisis level. When schools go to distance learning, it compounds the problem because we simply don’t have the capacity for full-day school-age care.”

In South Lake Tahoe, there are 19 home daycares and eight daycare centers which can serve 208 kids. That obviously doesn’t provide options for the nearly 3,900 students in the school district.

These centers are changing the way they do business, so they can help students with remote learning.

Step by Step Early Learning Corporation has adapted their schedule to match with students’ school schedules but with kindergarten through fifth grade students all together, they are also adjusting to each student’s needs.

“The staff will be taking on different roles this year, our teachers will be facilitating a full-day school-age classroom instead of a three-hour homework assistance program,” said Candi Bailey, executive director. “We believe that our teachers will be serving a tutor role in the classroom as they did at the end of last school year. We anticipate that our staff will be assisting the students with logging onto their classrooms, helping with assignments and supporting the students when they need assistance.”

Bailey said they upgraded their wifi and purchased two Chromebooks for students who forget their computers. They’ve also purchased school supplies, and engaging toys and activities for kids of all age groups.

They will also be offering free breakfast, lunch and snacks.

“In our classroom we have created a specific place to focus on schoolwork, reinforcing positive study habits,” Bailey said. “The set schedule with predictable routines is better for the students, they know what to expect. A stable schedule is better for their mental health and their future classroom behaviors.”

Still, to meet CDC guidelines, they can only have 10 students per teacher, limiting the amount of students they can help.

The Boys and Girls Club of Lake Tahoe is also adjusting to meet the needs of the community. In a normal year, the club would only operate for a few hours after school but now, they will operate all day to accommodate for distance learning.

“We are facilitating online learning and offering a place to do that in a supervised environment,” said Jude Wood, executive director, BGCLT.

The club is helping 150 students and Wood said they’ve had a waitlist of 70 kids at one point.

“We already had a child care crisis in the community,” Wood said.

Parents who can’t get into daycare are getting creative. Local parent Kathy Haven is hosting a pod of eight students in her garage.

The students are all seventh graders, four are English speakers and four are Spanish speaking.

Haven wishes she could take more but only has so much room in her garage.

“With groups of kids, there are mitigated risks but the kids need help with all of this,” Haven said.

Haven sees this situation as a real opportunity for the community to come together. Parents of students forming pods is helpful but she said older students or retired people could volunteer to watch the younger students while they learn, adding that it’s easy to socially distance in a yard or a park.

“Older siblings will be expected to help which builds family,” Haven said. “We’re going to have to make more independent learners.”

Haven said her 16-year-old daughter will be tutoring students at Bijou Elementary School.

Lake Tahoe Community College is attempting to help as well. The college offers tutoring for work experience, where students can tutor or mentor in exchange for work experience credits.

Elizabeth Loudon, program coordinator of Outreach and Dual Enrollment at LTCC said the clubs on campus are also giving support. The math club, for example, is offering virtual math tutoring.

Loudon also said the Dual Enrollment and Concurrent Enrollment programs could be good opportunities for high schoolers to get ahead or learn something not offered at the high school.

The Dual Enrollment program allows students to take classes for college credit through their high school, while concurrent enrollment allows students to take college courses through the LTCC.

The Dual Enrollment classes will be moving to an online platform and LTCC is working closely with South Tahoe High School to develop those classes.

Loudon said some of the concurrent enrollment courses are online without a set meeting time which allows students to have more flexibility with their schedule.

“In some cases, students can take concurrent enrollment courses that have limited in-person interaction. Many of these are short courses in art, culinary, and wilderness education,” Loudon said. “For students who are not getting any in-person instruction because of remote learning, this can be a welcomed and safe break to interact with people and use college facilities like the ceramics lab.”

One thing that should be noted is that the school district is a tough place, having to weigh COVID-19 versus the benefits of in-person learning.

“We are very empathetic to the struggles of our families and our parents and we’ll do whatever we can to help and support as best we can,” said LTUSD Superintendent Todd Cutler.

Haven said she’d like to get back to normal school as soon as possible with as many safety measures.

Ultimately, it comes down to COVID-19. Wood reiterates the importance of everyone wearing their masks and also says first hand that young kids can wear a mask for long periods of time.

“The sooner we drop the cases of covid, the sooner we can go back to school,” Wood said.


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