The Washington Post, July 2020
I have four children, one of them in elementary school. My school district just announced that its preferred plan is for school to operate in a hybrid fashion, alternating between in-person weeks and weeks of remote learning. Aside from my concerns about whether this plan is developmentally appropriate for young children who need regular routines, as a working parent I am utterly exhausted thinking about how we will manage.
It is not as if parents’ jobs can be put on hold every other week. As a college professor, I am fortunate to have a somewhat flexible schedule and can work from home a lot of the time. But roughly half of all essential workers (about 27 million) are women — mostly working in-person jobs in health care and community-based services — who do not have the option of working remotely.
That is, if we can find child care. Already, the capacity of day-care centers has been reduced due to strict child-staff ratios and staffing requirements. Given that day cares historically operate on slim profit margins, these initial restrictions — coupled with the expense of purchasing personal protective equipment, or PPE, for staff and additional cleaning materials — could mean steep increases in tuition or going out of business. Some advocates anticipate a wave of permanent closures, leading to the loss of as many as 450,000 child-care slots — reducing the supply exactly when demand will spike because of widespread remote learning. Among working parents who reported needing care, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) had difficulty finding child care in the first months of the pandemic. Even relying on grandparents can be uncertain — particularly in states with high and/or resurging covid-19 caseloads.