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CPS parents feeling 'so lonely, yet together' amid ongoing virtual learning

Lily and Jude Faris sit across from each other at home while their Cincinnati Public schools are closed.
Victoria Faris
Lily and Jude Faris sit across from each other at home while their Cincinnati Public schools are closed.

Victoria Faris' daughter texted her multiple times in the past two months telling her there was no teacher in her Walnut Hills High School classroom. She and her classmates were left unattended while staffing buckled under the weight of COVID cases due to the omicron variant. The Cincinnati Public School board voted last week to move to online learning until Jan. 24.

Faris knows she should feel worried her daughter, Lily, 15, is at risk of catching COVID and being unattended at school. But virtual learning is also hard on the teen who's missing social interaction with her friends and teachers.

Her son Jude, 8, struggled going back to school the last time he had to learn virtually. The lights, sounds and interactions were too much stimulus for him and she worries how virtual learning will affect his schooling down the line.

"If you spend your days worrying about it constantly, then you're going to drive yourself crazy," she said. "And it feels like, 'God, these are things that I should be worried about.' But we just don't have the capacity nowadays."

Stefani Meyer, whose kids attend the Clifton Area Neighborhood School, said she broke down in tears when she heard CPS schools were moving back to virtual learning.

"It just transported me back to the stress of watching them do schoolwork, nagging them to do schoolwork, trying to get them on meetings, trying to get to work on time, not staying up too late, charging devices, and getting everything ready," she said. "I think I just cried because I had processed that stress and gotten past it, and then it kind of came flooding back. And I know others felt that way, too."

On her weekday off from work, Tuesday, she sees her kids sometimes hanging upside down in their chair or playing while in class. But they're mostly engaged. She says they're used to being virtual sometimes now.

She, her husband Dave, and her in-laws alternate caring for their three children during the week – Henry, 8, Oliver, 6, and Thomas, 3. Her youngest son attends daycare, which is also closed due to COVID. She's not sure how they'd manage without help from family right now. They'd likely have to hire a nanny or take leave from work to manage the kids.

Oliver, Henry, and Thomas Meyer do virtual learning at their homes this month. Henry is wearing a hat for crazy hat day at his school.
Provided by Stefani Meyer
Oliver, Henry, and Thomas Meyer do virtual learning at their homes this month. Henry is wearing a hat for crazy hat day at his school.

Reconsidering roles

It's an expense not everyone can afford.

Faris doesn't have a support system who can help care for her children. She had to quit her job of five years as she struggled trying to manage her children's education. Her husband's job at a local hospital paid more money than hers. They didn't think it was conscionable for him to leave the medical field during the pandemic.

"I was forced, as many women were, to reconsider my role within the workplace," she says. "I had a trajectory I was moving towards, and I kind of had to throw that out the window. And yeah, because there was no way I could school my kids and maintain the quality of work that I was used to maintaining in any way, shape or form."

She now works as a liaison at an online school, Ohio Virtual Academy, helping parents and students excel at online learning.

"I know that (one) mom is a delivery driver for DoorDash and so she's in the car most of the time, so she's not sitting there waiting for class to start … they're driving around in the car and it's not an ideal learning environment," she said. "But at least the student is getting exposure to letters and numbers and other students and the social aspect and creating bonds with teachers."

Both Faris and Meyer know they're in a position of privilege being able to work from home or have people help with their children, And neither of them are upset with the district. They know schools are in seemingly impossible situations when it comes to keeping schools staffed and COVID rates low.

But that doesn't necessarily make parenting during virtual learning any easier to bear.

"We're all in solidarity," Meyer said. "But yet, each one of our individual situations is different. It's just different enough that it kind of separates us... So I think it's so lonely yet together."

Jolene Almendarez is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants who came to San Antonio in the 1960s. She was raised in a military family and has always called the city home. She studied journalism at San Antonio College and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Public Communications from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She's been a reporter in San Antonio and Castroville, Texas, and in Syracuse and Ithaca, New York.