On Tuesday, the CDC released guidelines for reopening schools in the fall. Recommendations called for spacing students out in school rooms and buses, closing common areas like cafeterias and playgrounds, and the use of masks and plastic partitions. It soon became clear that school schedules wouldn’t be returning to normal next year.
Staggered Attendance Policies
Many schools operate on shoestring budgets and struggled to find enough space on buses and in classrooms before the coronavirus hit. There is physically no way to put distance guidelines into practice without doubling the size of bus fleets and increasing the number of school rooms available. That would also require more supplies, more teachers and student aids. In other words, it’s not possible.
A viable alternative mentioned in the CDC school reopening guidelines is staggering attendance policies. That might look like children attending half days or every other day, leaving them home the rest of the time. Parents should assume their workdays will be disrupted. They shouldn’t assume the government will provide relief.
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Improving Daycare Options During a Pandemic
As it is now, many single parents are home with their children and receiving unemployment. The United States House of Representatives recently passed a relief bill that would extend those benefits through the end of the year. The bill hasn’t gotten much support in the Senate.
In addition to contacting your representatives, parents need to start looking at options for childcare once schools are back in session.
Make sure that any daycare provider follows safety protocols. Whether you believe masks work or not, they’re an easy litmus test to determine if a center is taking safety guidelines seriously. If you show up and the staff isn’t covering their faces, they may not be taking other steps to help keep your children – and by way of them, the rest of your family – healthy.
Have a backup plan available in case of illness. Most centers don’t have isolation rooms for sick children and refuse to care for a sick child. You might be able to stay home with them through the Family and Medical Leave Act. Parents without that protection will have to have a contingency plan. Other options may include working from home or hiring a short-term home nurse or sick-child care service.
Use the opportunity to get more time with your children. Dads across the U.S. lament a lack of parenting time. As the coronavirus shakes up normal school and work schedules, some dads have found new opportunities to get more time with their kids. Your co-parent might be easier to work with now that they need more help to cover childcare responsibilities. Just make sure you don’t get taken for granted. If permanent changes are put in place, follow up by changing your court order, so you don’t wind up losing those opportunities if schedules go back to how they used to be.
Things are changing quickly as communities respond to the pandemic. Employers and government agencies will likely create new resources to deal with rising needs. Still, now is a good time to start doing research on what resources you have available and what adjustments might be needed for your parenting plan.