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Single Parent Issues: Back To School During The Pandemic

Hi, this is Billie Tarascio from Modern Law. And today I want to talk about school.

For me, there has never been a more stressful time during this pandemic. After the last month of online schooling for my kids, you guys already know I have four kids, tenth grade, eighth grade, second grade and kindergarten, and the second grader has some learning disabilities. So last year at the end of the year, he had one-on-one support from a nanny. But now this year there’s two littles that need support, including a kindergartener who’s never been to school. As for the second grader who’s got learning disabilities, there were a couple of days where the nanny was sick and I did it myself.

Now, I understand how privileged that sounds I do. So please don’t come down on me for this. But, I found trying to teach kids online to be really, really difficult. I think the expectation of kindergarteners to be able to engage in a classroom, even for two hours, was impossible. It was like she couldn’t do it.

The Challenge of Remote Learning

Julia was laying on the ground, listening to the story, being read to. But she can’t figure out how to mute and unmute herself. And she’s just overall not engaged. It was not engaging to her. And I don’t know, I think for her, it would have been easier to just do work like assigned work and not live online learning. But of course that requires a parent or some supervisor to facilitate that.

So I’m thinking maybe we just even delay starting kindergarten. I feel very, very bad for the kindergartners. The older kids seem to do just fine with online, but the school where my kids go, they allowed kids the option to go back or to do remote learning. And, thankfully their dad and I agreed that they would do better in school.

And so today was the first day that all four kids were back in school and Julia got to go on Tuesday and both Julia and Zander got to go on Wednesday. And it was just a massive relief. They very much enjoyed being at school. They miss their friends, even with masks.

Kids Wearing Masks

Now my children’s school has taken a very interesting approach with masks. At least in Julia’s class, she’s got a screen built up around her desk and she doesn’t have to wear her mask at her desk. She can take it off for mask breaks. They can take it off. Also when they’re outside at recess, they can take it off when they’re eating. So they put their mask on when they go to the bathroom, or if they’re walking in the hall or if they’re moving around the classroom, sort of like the rules for restaurants here in Arizona.

And then they’ve got a lanyard for the kiddos, with the mask on the lanyard. So it’s super easy to put on and take off. And now it seems to be working. Julia understands the system and she she’s using it.

Then the other thing that my kids’ school has done is they’ve set up testing – free COVID testing – for any family and any child. And a lot of people are participating. It’s not mandatory, but a lot of people are participating and they’re sharing the positivity rates. So what I really like about this is it, it is an experiment. One of the things you have to do is assess your risk tolerance for you and for your kids. How healthy are my kids? How good do I feel about sending them back? How do I weigh the pros and cons and do what’s best for my family?

Luckily we were on the same page and we definitely thought it was best for our kids to go to school. But the other thing that this will do, because they’re testing within this microcosm of people, is we will know what is the effect of going to school? What is the effect of sending kids to school? What effect does that have on the rate of transmission of COVID-19, which I think is something that is pretty darn important. We need that information. We need that information in order to make the best possible decisions about our kids. And we’re going to have more data, and more information. Parents who want to send their kids remotely, have that option at my kids’ school.

What happens when parents disagree?

We’re seeing this all the time, when parents disagree about where a kid should go to school or where a child should be enrolled, or whether or not they should go to school, what is the answer?

What should happen? Well, if one parent has sole legal decision-making or final legal decision making authority, then they get to choose. If you have joint legal decision making, the default is the status quo. So if your children were enrolled previously to go in person, then the staff’s clothes should be maintained. Now, parents don’t like that answer because nothing about what we have now is the status quo. The whole, the circumstances have changed from from earlier. Now, if your school has asked in the interim, you know, do you want to send your kids back to school? If at one point there was an agreement between the parties, then that’s the agreement. That’s the agreement that end you should move forward with it. Even if you feel like you’ve changed your mind. Now, what happens when that doesn’t work? Schools are very confused. Let’s say you’ve got one parent that wants to do the distance learning and one parent and wants to do the in school.

Now my kids’ school doesn’t allow for that. They want you to pick one, but I’ve got a situation where one parent wants to send the kid and the other parent doesn’t and the school isn’t saying you can both do what you want during your parenting time. So now they’re in a position of having to interpret what a court order means, and they don’t want to do that. They’re not equipped to do that.

Schools Don’t Know How To Intervene

Disagreements about this are bad news. And the normal outcome, the practical outcome here is that, you know, if one parent has enrolled the kids in school and the other parent hasn’t said anything about it or done anything about it, or proposed another solution, then that’s probably what’s going to happen. Practically speaking, it’s going to be hard to get in front of a judge here and know what they’re going to do. When the pandemic first happened, the court came out with guidelines that essentially said, each parent gets to choose what they want to do; don’t come bring us an emergency action.

If your ex isn’t following the social distancing guidelines and they ruled on that uniformly. And so when people came to us, I could tell them that that’s what they could anticipate, but that is not where we’re at now. I don’t know. I have no idea when we take a case to court where one parent wants to do distance learning and one parent wants to do in school learning what the court is going to do. So I will certainly update you, um, when I have more information. But that is what we’ve got for now. Good luck. Happy Labor Day. Enjoy this three-day weekend. Hopefully you don’t have homework to deal with and we’ll talk to you soon.