AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:
It’s been a tough start to 2022 for people with school-aged kids as teachers, parents and students try to cope with the omicron surge. Most U.S. schools opened for in-person learning last week, but more than 5,000 schools nationwide were closed for at least a day. Some made an unplanned shift to virtual school, others extended winter break. But in many schools that stayed open, quarantines and staff shortages led to a patchwork of open and closed classrooms. We’re going to talk to a mom who, like so many Americans, is once again faced with balancing work and child care and trying to come up with a plan when dealing with constant uncertainty. Tabbatha Plomaritus is a web developer at the University of Michigan. She’s also a single mother to a first-grader. And she joins us now from Ann Arbor.
Welcome to the program.
TABBATHA PLOMARITUS: Hello. Thank you.
RASCOE: Your daughter’s school district announced it would be going remote just before winter break ended. How did you react to the news, and how did your daughter take that?
PLOMARITUS: Well, you know, we got the email about the closure for the upcoming week on New Year’s Eve, around dinnertime.
RASCOE: Happy New Year (laughter).
PLOMARITUS: Yes. Happy New Year to us. And you know, it was frustrating, and I felt really stressed and overwhelmed. But when I told my daughter that evening, that’s really what hurt me the most. She just started bawling. She had already missed most of December. She went to school for three days in December. She also – she’s an old soul in a little body. And she’s worried about missing school.
PLOMARITUS: And, you know, when am I going to learn? And I’m like, it’s OK (laughter).
RASCOE: Did you feel like you had enough time to prepare for this?
PLOMARITUS: So there is no amount of time that can allow you to prepare. There are no plans for some families, like mine. You know, I looked into the emergency backup child care program that we have locally, and I actually get a stipend for it through my employer based on income. And I went and reregistered thinking, OK, at least I’ll get someone to come, like, half days to help her with virtual learning. But even with my stipend, it was going to cost me $80 a day. That’s too much a cost for me. And, you know, it just – there were no plans to be made for us.
RASCOE: Yeah. And so basically what you ended up doing is, as you said, you’re trying to work at home. So trying to do virtual learning is tough. So how is your first-grader handling the transition, like, trying to do some remote learning?
PLOMARITUS: So we did try for the remote learning to …….