Parents find disruptive new normal in pandemic life

As my kindergartener fumbled for his shoes, I stood at our door sifting through the new mental parenting checklist that popped into my brain: the backpack. Sweatshirt. snack. sunscreen. Water bottle. KN95 masks. Vaccination card.

Jesse asked for his cloth mask, and I explained again that if he was wearing that, he would need to wear a surgical mask too, making it difficult to run around during recess. So I tried my best to twist the elastic ear straps on the KN95 to fit his angelic face, and we headed out the door.

When we arrived at our school Will Rogers Learning Community in Santa Monica, California, the entry path was split into two lines by a velvet rope. Children and parents gathered at the rope entrance to examine a large-character poster placed on a music stand. It lists classes with COVID cases whose children must be tested before they can go to school. The kids were moved to the right and into the cafeteria where staff were helping them stick cotton swabs on their little noses. The rest of the children entered the building.

That’s how parenting in Southern California was in the omicron era, swimming in a sea of ??anxiety where the currents kept changing direction, providing an awkward soup of fear, determination, and gratitude for those trying to keep schools afloat.

The chaos in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest school district in the United States, is evident. 520,000 children The influx of schools began on January 11 for the first time in three weeks.

“It’s very urgent to keep schools open,” said Manuel Pastor, a sociologist and director of the USC Equity Institute.Indeed, down California law The bill, which went into effect in July, prevents Los Angeles from transitioning to distance learning unless there is a severe staffing shortage. But at the same time, schools have stepped up safety measures already among the strictest in the country, with increased mask and testing requirements.

Push-pull is essential because physical attendance is critical for children who are already disadvantaged because they speak other languages ??at home or because parents can’t or don’t help them with their lessons, Pastor said. However, these children are more likely to pose a risk if they bring the virus home because their families are more likely to live in crowded homes, their parents are more likely to be essential workers, and they are more likely to have Unvaccinated siblings or relatives.

“It’s the worst of two possible worlds in terms of the challenges of remote learning and the challenges of going back to school,” he said.

Before students can return on Jan. 11, they must take a baseline test, either by passing an at-home rapid test (which sometimes gives false-negative results) a few days before school begins, or by taking a PCR test at a fixed location. About 65,000 children tested positive before school began; about 85,000 were absent on the first day, possibly due in part to parental fears of the virus.

According to many families, testing is the easiest part of going back to school. There are 60 locations for students to take the test for free.The area has Largest weekly coronavirus testing program Across the country, every staff member and student is tested weekly.

However, children in quarantine will not have the option to enlarge their classrooms. Schools do not train their teachers to be both in-class and online students. Under the district’s revised quarantine rules — requiring only students who test positive or have obvious symptoms of illness to stay home — those who are quarantined should be recovering anyway and may return within a few days, officials said. .

Even for those entering school, the transition isn’t always smooth sailing. Daily Pass, the app for students to upload test scores, crashed on the morning of school reopenings.

So instead of swiping their phones at the school building gates, children lined up in long queues Around the school and went through a very unscientific process to review their infectious status. Some schools have resumed asking students and parents screening questions.

Interim Superintendent Megan Reilly has apologised for the daily pass glitch. “I know today is not going to be a bumpy day,” she told a news conference.

Meanwhile, administrators have been redeployed to replace some 2,000 teachers (out of a total of 25,000) who are out due to COVID or caring for people with the virus. On Jan. 12, a school board member replaced one classroom, and a LAUSD architect assisted in the other. Jenna Schwartz, parent of LAUSD, co-founded the group Parents support teachers, said the district brought thousands of staff to help. It’s not as bad as it sounds, she said.

“The legend is that bus drivers teach algebra, but the truth is that there are a large number of qualified teachers working in management,” she said. “One of the benefits of bureaucracy is that there are a large number of people who can fill the vacancies.”

of the district Modified Quarantine The policy states that if there is a contact in the classroom, students can remain in school without symptoms and be tested on the fifth day after the suspected exposure.

But not every school is implementing the policy, and some, like public charter schools, have leeway to make their own decisions. Paulina Jones’ 6-year-old daughter, a kindergartener at Global Citizen Charter School in Hollywood, was sent home with the rest of her class for 10 days due to exposure during her first week back in school.

That’s why Jones drove to work on Jan. 11 to a construction site where she was the manager, with her daughter in the back seat. Jones worries that this will happen over and over again. “Half of the schools are now in isolation,” she said.

Between the long winter break and this quarantine, her daughter has only one day of face-to-face teaching a month. Jones said scaling directives are not available for this age group.

“It was stressful for me to have her work with me, but it was more beneficial than taking 10 days off,” she said. “We all have to make tough decisions right now and I have to support my family.”

The wave after wave of illness is tiresome, Jones said. “If there was an end, I would take leave, but there is no end in sight.”

The chaplain said the situation echoed those of early 2020, but with one notable difference: “There’s no talk of shutdowns. Just talking about managing the disease so we don’t overwhelm hospitals and health care,” he said. “There are going to be a lot of scary moments for parents.”

Those words echoed in my head as I watched Jesse load up on his new KN95, wobbled as he put the pack on his little frame, and galloped into the right lane School. As he disappeared by the school gate, I could hear him chatter to another kid: “I’m ready.”

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