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Parents See Disruption as the New Normal, Despite Pandemic Life’s Enduring Threat

As my kindergartner fumbled with his shoes, I stood at our door sifting through the mental parenting checklist newly lodged in my brain: backpack. Sweatshirt. Snacks. Sunscreen. Water bottle. KN95 mask. Vaccination card. Jesse asked for his cloth mask, and I explained again that if he wore that one he’d need to have on a…

As my kindergartner struggled to find his shoes, I stood at the door, looking through the mental parenting checklist that had just been lodged in my head: backpack. Sweatshirt. Snacks. Sunscreen. Water bottle. KN95 mask. Vaccination card.

Jesse wanted his cloth mask. I explained that if that was the case, he would need to wear a surgical mask as well, which might make it difficult to go to recess. So I did my best to twist the elastic ear loops on the KN95 into a size that would fit his cherubic face, and we headed out the door.

When we arrived at Will Rogers Learning Community in Santa Monica, California the entrance path was divided by a velvet rope. Parents and children gathered at the rope entry, examining large prints on a piece of paper. It showed the names of covid cases and required that their children be tested before they could enter school. These children were taken to the right and brought into the cafeteria, where staff helped them clean their tiny noses. The rest of them went into the building.

This is Southern California parenting in the days before omicron. It’s a messy soup of fear, determination, and gratitude for the people who keep schools running.

The messiness is evident in the nation’s second-largest school district, Los Angeles Unified, where roughly 520,000 kids started pouring back into schools Jan. 11 for the first time in three weeks.

” There is a lot of urgency to keep schools open,” says Manuel Pastor (sociologist and director of University of Southern California’s Equity Research Institute). In fact, Los Angeles cannot switch to distance learning under a California statute which took effect in July. The schools have also strengthened safety measures, which were already some of the most stringent in the country. They have upgraded testing and masking requirements.

The push-pull is important because children who are already disabled because they speak another language at home or have parents who don’t understand or can’t help them with lessons is crucial. These same children are at greater risk of bringing the virus home because their families are more likely live in cramped homes. Their parents are also more likely not to be essential workers and have more unvaccinated relatives.

” “It’s kinda the worst of both worlds in terms challenges in remote learning as well as the challenges of going back to school,” he stated.

Before students could return on Jan. 11, they had to participate in baseline testing, either through a home rapid test a few days before school started — which can sometimes give false-negative results — or a PCR test at a stationary site. Some 65,000 kids tested positive before school reopened; another 85,000 or so were also absent the first day, partly, perhaps, because of parental fear of the virus.

Many families found that testing was the most difficult part of getting back to school. There were 60 locations for students to pick up free tests. The district already had the largest weekly coronavirus test program , which was administered to every student and staff member every week.

Children who are in quarantine will not be able to Zoom into their classrooms. Schools have not provided training for teachers to teach online and in-room students simultaneously. Officials claim that the modified quarantine rules of the district, which allow only students with active symptoms or who have tested positive for illness to be allowed to stay at home, mean that those in quarantine should be recuperating and will likely return to school within a few days.

Even for those who were accepted into school, the transition wasn’t always easy. Daily Pass, an app that allows students to upload test results, crashed on the morning when schools reopened.

Instead of flashing their phones at schoolhouse doors, children formed lines around schools . Then they were subject to a very unscientific process to determine their infectiousness. Some schools went back to asking screening questions

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