Tina Carroll says she fights back tears at night trying to figure out how to juggle being a single mom and an employee who needs be at work during a pandemic.
“I really don’t know what my son is going to do. It really puts me in between a rock and a hard place,” the Denver-area woman told CNN Wednesday night. “If the schools don’t reopen, I really don’t know what I’m going to do.”
For Carroll, whose 6-year-old boy is set to begin first grade soon, remote learning leaves her with no options. “I’m being asked to make a choice between my child and my job.”
“I’m being torn,” said Carroll, associate director of housing and dining at the University of Colorado Denver, which itself plans to allow some students to attend classes and live on campus this fall.
With the new school year just weeks away, experts have said there won’t be a one-size fits all return to class. Many have protested reopening schools in August, including educators and local leaders, in fear it will fuel the spread of coronavirus.
But others favor reopening schools because they say the alternative leaves little options for working parents and will cause more harm to students who have already been isolated for months.
In Carroll’s state of Colorado, some districts have announced the academic year will begin with only remote instruction. Across the US, parents who received similar news turned to their communities to come up with ways to supplement that virtual instruction – like neighborhood pods and homeschooling.
But not everyone can cover the extra expenses. And Carroll says she is among the many parents whose jobs require her to be on site – and therefore would be unavailable to monitor her child’s schooling at home.
“I enjoy getting up and going to work every day,” she said, but she equally enjoys watching her son go to school and “develop and grow.” That’s why she says she doesn’t want to opt for just child care for her son in the upcoming months, especially since he’s now entering first grade – a critical educational milestone.
Last week, new guidelines from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came down hard in favor or a return to in-person instruction, but noted local officials should consider closing schools if there is an uncontrolled transmission of the virus in the community.
“I’m really hoping that my district and the state of Colorado is going to pull together as we’ve been standing through this entire time together,” Carroll said. “And I have confidence in them that we’re going to come up with a plan that’s going to help critical and essential employees.”