On Parenting, COVID-19, And “Opening”​ The State

I found myself thinking this morning, after reading a Tweet from a journalist-friend, about my frustration with the lack of clarity as to how we all move forward.

The word is, Governor Walz (here in Minnesota) will be updating us all on the future of the Stay At Home order, set to expire on the 4th, later today. Some are expecting an extension and support such a move. Others are demanding and hoping he lifts restrictions. I’m guessing it will be somewhere in the middle. 

But as companies begin to reopen, I find myself pondering the lack of consideration some of my neighbors are exhibiting as they demand a reopening of the state sooner than later. Going back to work sounds excellent – I would love to find a job and get moving again. But for many Minnesotans, it’s not that simple.

Why do you ask? One word – kids.

For 44 days, parents throughout the state have been without school and before school and after school programs. Last week the Governor announced schools would remain closed through the end of the school year. That means parents are without critical school-aged child care until at least early June. 

Without programs and daycare options for school-aged kids – parents, especially single parents, remain in a bind between work and child care. As we await word on the future of programs like Minneapolis Public School’s summer school programming, or the Minneapolis Park and Rec’s Rec+ program, it’s difficult to envision a “normal” return to work for parents throughout the state and country. 

Whether you’re a married couple with one or two kids (or enough to field a football team), co-parents sharing custody, or a single mom or dad doing this all on your own, the lack of information on this critical piece of daily infrastructure makes planning a return to an office, store, or place of work challenging at best.

Even if summer programming opens, with social distancing, it remains to be seen if programs will have the same student capacity as in the past. Reduced capacity may mean that some families will find themselves without any child care coverage until school returns in the fall. This may be especially felt in lower-income communities – leading to further inequities in child care and summer learning, increasing the already expansive achievement gap.

So while “reopen Minnesota” sounds good, especially for those who are unemployed due to COVID-19 like myself, as a parent, or a single parent like me, it’s not as simple. 

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