Work, teach, repeat: How working parents are coping under coronavirus

Samantha Masunaga and Ronald D. White, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

LOS ANGELES -- The day officials announced that all Los Angeles schools would shut down, Tamra Johnson made a spreadsheet outlining the next few weeks for her 5-year-old son.

An engineer by trade, Johnson wanted to make sure her son's schedule still seemed as normal as possible. That meant learning new topics during the day and at night completing assignments sent home by the Los Angeles Unified School District -- just as if he were still in school.

All the while, the Venice, Calif., resident is juggling her own work responsibilities as the chief operating officer for two companies. Oh yeah -- and she and her husband have a toddler too.

"I fully expect through the rest of the school year that part of my responsibility is acting as the primary teacher to my son," she said. "Kind of like another job."

As schools across California and the country closed to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, millions of parents suddenly became de facto teachers, principals and day-care providers.

Sometimes, that means crowded dinner tables and bedrooms as remote-working parents and children jostle for space. In other cases, parents with essential jobs, such as healthcare providers, must rely on nearby family members or friends for childcare when they go in to work, making complete self-isolation impossible.


LaQuan Morales and his wife have tried to re-create a classroom environment for their 8-year-old daughter, Briaja, who has been home from third grade for more than two weeks. The couple -- he's an industrial painter, she's a self-employed tax preparer -- bought flashcards, a map of California and a poster of all 50 states from educational supplies store Lakeshore Learning to hang up in their Norwalk home.

Running a school while working from home requires a high tolerance for unexpected interruptions.

A few days ago, Ryan Schonfeld, chief executive of RAS Security Group, was on a call with a prospective client when his children, ages 5 and 3, walked into his home office and announced it was "hug time."

"The tone of the meeting actually changed for the better after that, became much more personal," the 34-year-old Redondo Beach resident said. "Everybody has the same problem right now if they have kids."


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