Community connections: Families scramble to find child care, start eLearning during coronavirus pandemic

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Life as a single mother living apart from family already had its challenges for Rachel Mould.

Then the coronavirus pandemic hit.

Now, Mould, a nurse at IU Health, is among many other parents scrambling to find child care and figure out how to keep up with virtual learning for her two children.

“I’m not the typical Carmel parent. I don’t have family around. I don’t have anyone else to rely on except for new relationships that I’ve created in my community,” said Mould, whose two children are in third and fifth grade at Prairie Trace Elementary.

Already, the community has stepped up in a big way. Mould said she can’t afford to hire a babysitter for the duration of the pandemic, but she’s had offers from neighbors to help watch her children or provide snacks and lunches during the day.

“It’s stressful,” Mould said. “I’m very grateful I’ve had some people step up who have helped me who aren’t going to charge me an arm and a leg.”

Other working parents have found relief in another group experiencing major upheaval from the pandemic: college students.

Mallory Harrington thought she’d be spending the spring semester of her junior year at Indiana State University in classrooms – both her own and others as she studies elementary education.

Instead, the Carmel High School graduate is spending at least the next couple of months helping 6-year-old Allie Koenig complete kindergarten eLearning lessons.

“It’s been really stressful, because I’m a substitute teacher in Terre Haute, and with the schools being closed, I’m out of a job,” she said. “On top of that, I can’t go to classes anymore. It’s really weird.”

Allie’s mother, Katie Koenig, said Harrington’s availability has been a huge relief, as she and her husband work full time.

“Not that there’s a great time for a virus to hit, but it’s definitely not a great time. Our company is swirling in integration efforts because (it was recently acquired). There’s a lot of work going on, and not working is not an option,” Katie Koenig said. “Both of us had to figure out what we’re going to do.”

Typically, Allie attends Smoky Row Elementary, and her 3-year-old brother, Owen, goes to day care. Smoky Row and all other Indiana schools are closed until at least May 1 by order of the governor, and the Koenigs proactively decided to pull Owen out of day care.

“It’s very difficult to do work at home without distractions when you’re relying on video conferencing and you have a 3-year-old running around who doesn’t understand, ‘Leave me alone, I’ve got to work,’” Koenig said.

The Koenigs have enlisted the help of the children’s grandmothers – both educators – to watch Owen, but even that wasn’t a straightforward decision.

“Grandparents are certainly at that age where you start to get a little nervous because they’re older,” Katie Koenig said. “There isn’t a playbook that tells you how to react to this.”

Whitney Moore – a mother of four children ages 4 to 12 – is managing the effects of campus closures and virtual learning herself. The Westfield resident said it’s a slow time of year for her photography business, and her part-time job as an instructional assistant is on hold while schools are closed.

Moore relying on a daily schedule and encouragement from other parents to make it through the pandemic.

“Mostly finding a network of other moms that you can vent to has been crucial to me so far,” she said. “A lot of us have communicated with each other and said, ‘If you need to vent to me, I’m here for you.’”

SCHOOL CLOSURES EXTENDED

By Jarred Meeks

In response to the spread of the new coronavirus, Gov. Eric Holcomb announced March 19 that all Indiana schools will be closed until at least May 1 and that all student assessments for the academic year have been canceled.

Holcomb said during a press conference that the state is looking at 30-, 60- and 90-day increments to assess school closures and that he will reassess whether schools should reopen closer to May 1.However, he said the idea of students returning to schools this academic year as “a miracle.”

Holcomb also announced state student assessments, including the ISTEP10 and ILEARN assessments, would be canceled.

Some schools will continue to provide education services through eLearning, but not all schools have the capability, and not all students have home access to take advantage of it if it’s offered.


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