Mar 23, 2020 1:39 PM

'A really big experiment': Parents turn teachers amid virus

Posted Mar 23, 2020 1:39 PM

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — After her sixth-grade son's school in Buffalo, New York, closed amid the coronavirus outbreak, Roxanne Ojeda-Valentin returned to campus with shopping bags to take home textbooks and weeks' worth of assignments prepared by teachers.

A single mother with a full-time job, she now joins millions of parents around the country — and the world — suddenly thrust into the role of their children's primary educators, leaving them scrambling to sift through educational resources and juggle lesson plans with jobs and other responsibilities.

“It’s a really big experiment,” Ojeda-Valentin said as she left the school, her second stop after picking up materials from her fourth-grade daughter's school.

Even in school districts that are providing remote instruction, the burden falls on parents to keep their children on task. In others, parents are left to find educational websites and curricular materials on their own. And while the challenges are daunting for all, they can be nearly impossible to overcome for parents limited by access to technology and their own levels of education.

Across the United States, more than 118,000 public and private schools in 45 states have closed, affecting 53 million students, according to a tally kept by Education Week. While many closures were initially announced as short-term, parents are wondering if schools will reopen this academic year as the outbreak intensifies.

On March 17, Governor Laura Kelly announced she was closing school buildings for the rest of the semester.
On March 17, Governor Laura Kelly announced she was closing school buildings for the rest of the semester.

After Kansas became the first state to announce schools would remain closed for the year, a task force recommended from 30 minutes of work a day for the youngest students to up to three hours daily for students in sixth grade and up. California Gov. Gavin Newsom also has urged the state's more than 6 million schoolchildren and their families to make long-term plans, telling them few, if any, schools would reopen before summer.

Los Angeles father Filiberto Gonzalez's three children have daily contact with their teachers and one to four hours of work they can do on an existing online platform that supplements classes. But he never thought the arrangement would transform from a stopgap measure to permanent situation.

"The news ... was a real shock to a lot of us,” he said.

In Portland, Oregon, Katie Arnold’s 7-year-old son has been spending his days in his mother’s office, keeping busy on an iPad and her laptop while she’s managing accounts for a catering company.

Oregon has shut down schools through April 28 and some districts have put optional activities online, though they are not meant to replace the regular curriculum. While her son's district explores virtual learning, she has been combing the internet and tapping friends for suggestions.

“Scholastic had a bunch of free things and I have a friend who’s a teacher, so I’ve gotten a lot of workbook pages for him to do, just to try to keep him busy,” said Arnold, who also has been using educational websites like ABCmouse.

Arnold is making plans with other parents to teach children in small groups if the closure is extended, and is resigned to the idea that her workdays will be followed by evening school sessions.

“We'll muster through it,” she said.

Some parents are turning to those with experience homeschooling for guidance, unsure of whether to enforce strict schedules and where to look for academic help. Amid an influx of interest, the National Home School Association dropped its membership fee from $39 to $10 for access to tip sheets and teaching materials, executive director Allen Weston said.

The online site Outschool saw 20,000 new students enroll during a single weekend in March, compared to the 80,000 who have attended class since its 2017 launch, CEO Amir Nathoo said. The company offers live, teacher-led online classes beginning at $5 each, but has also offered free webinars on running online classes through video conferencing.

Child development researcher Jessica Logan and her husband continue to work full-time from home and have been tag-teaming school-related questions from their 8- and 12-year-old children, home from Columbus City Schools in Ohio.

“I see all these people writing out, ‘Here are the six hours we're going to spend each day doing homework,' and was like, ‘Not happening in my house,’” she said. “When am I going to get my work done? I still have my own work to do, so does my husband. Neither of us can take the entire day off to sit with them and do math worksheets or science experiments.”

“All parents are in the same boat,” Logan said. “Your kid is not going to fall behind if they don't do these assignments every day.”

Nevertheless, Vancouver, Washington, teacher Renee Collins has committed to keeping not only her own 10- and 8-year-old children on track academically, but two of her friend’s children and a second-grade neighbor as well.

“We’re going to do Monday, Tuesday and Thursday with the five kids together and the other days I’ll do individually with (her own kids). So we’ll do five days,” she said.

“The one thing that kind of gives a lot of us comfort," said Collins who teaches middle-school math, "is that it’s not just our state. It’s our entire nation. It’s not just going to be the state of Washington that’s behind. It’s not just going to be my children that are going to be behind. It’s going to be everybody.”

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Continue Reading North Platte Post
Mar 23, 2020 1:39 PM
Virus outbreak poses massive challenges for US charities
The pandemic stopped the annual Girl Scout cookie sale. Above is Alliance, NE councilwomen Annora Bentley with Girl Scouts in Box Butte County. 

NEW YORK (AP)— With its global scope and its staying power, the coronavirus outbreak poses unprecedented challenges for charities and nonprofit groups that rely on donations.

The American Red Cross faces a severe blood shortage due to the cancellation of nearly 2,700 blood drives. The Girl Scouts' annual cookie sale — vital to the group's finances — has been disrupted by a top-level plea to halt in-person sales.

And a 21-member coalition of major nonprofits is pleading with Congress to allocate $60 billion so charities can keep their staff on the job and ramp up assistance programs.

The CEO of one of those groups, Brian Gallagher of United Way Worldwide, has worked with the charity since 1981, engaging in its response to the 9/11 attacks, the Ebola threat, Hurricane Katrina and other disasters.

He said the COVID-19 outbreak has no parallel: "It's as if a natural disaster is hitting in slow motion just about every country on Earth."

Already, foundations and other major donors have contributed more than $1.9 billion to combat the outbreak, according to Candid, a New York-based nonprofit that tracks philanthropic giving.

The overall total, including donations from individuals, is surely far higher. Yet nonprofit leaders fear that the needs arising from the outbreak will outstrip even the possibility of massive future giving, let alone a possible drop in giving if a recession takes hold.

“Even if we get this virus under control, there will be several months of recovery for many people,” said Patricia McIlreavy, president of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. “Business will have closed, many families will have exhausted every reserve.”

Among the major charities bracing for future challenges is the Salvation Army, which says it annually receives about $2 billion in public support to serve about 23 million people living in poverty.

“We expect that service number to rise exponentially in the coming months," requiring "tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars to support our most vulnerable neighbors,” said Dale Bannon, the faith-based organization’s community relations and development secretary.”

He said the Salvation Army, like many other charities, has been forced to cancel numerous fundraising events because of the outbreak. It is now focusing on online fundraising operations.

Canceled blood drives have been devastating to the American Red Cross, which provides about 40% of the nation’s blood supply.

In a statement Wednesday, the organization estimated that there have been 86,000 fewer blood donations in recent weeks because of the wave of blood drive cancellations at workplaces, colleges and other venues as people were told to work or study from home and practice social distancing.

Patients being treated in hospitals for the coronavirus do not generally need blood transfusions, but the worsening blood shortage could affect surgery and cancer patients and victims of car accidents.

Anticipating that blood drive cancellations will continue, the Red Cross pleaded for potential donors to support drives that do take place or for donors to visit its blood-donation facilities.

The group outlined additional safety precautions being taken, including checking the temperature of staff and donors before they enter locations and requiring staff to change gloves each time they interact with a different donor.

For the Girl Scouts of the USA, calling for a halt to in-person cookie sales was momentous, given that the sales net roughly $800 million annually and are the core of the organization’s fundraising.

Girls who had been selling cookies at booths outside stores and other locations were asked to focus on online sales instead.

“The risk of interaction with large crowds is just too great,” said the Girl Scouts’ CEO, Sylvia Acevedo.

The Girl Scouts are asking their corporate supporters to consider making bulk cookie purchases. A spokeswoman, Valerie Geiss, said it would be several months before the financial outcome of the sales campaign is known.

Many local Girl Scout gatherings across the country have been suspended, though some units are meeting online. The Washington-based Girl Scouts of Nation’s Capital said it will be hosting more than 40 “virtual troop meetings” next week, potentially serving about 5,000 girls.

The Girl Scouts were among the 21 nonprofits appealing to congress on Thursday for the $60 billion infusion of support for charitable organizations.

Their appeal said America’s charities employ 12 million workers, many of them working on the front lines of the coronavirus response.

“The financial impact of the crisis has put the very survival of many essential service providers at risk,” said Steven C. Preston, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries International. “Charities are our society’s shock absorber when crisis hits.”

At the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, McIlreavy says there has been a surge of requests from would-be donors seeking guidance on how to give effectively in response to the pandemic.

‘‘Folks just want to know the money is going somewhere where it's actually going to help someone,” she said.

Her center urges donors to be wary of misinformation and do thorough research of charities before making gifts. It identifies key areas that could interest donors: urgent medical response needs, long-term medical research and assistance to vulnerable people in the U.S. or abroad.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

For the United Way, a current priority is to strengthen and expand the 211 network that helps people who call the number to connect with providers of urgently needed social services.

Gallagher said 211 specialists have answered about 12 million requests annually, and he predicts there will be an additional 200,000 calls per day in coming weeks because of the outbreak.

Looking broadly, Gallagher believes there will be a surge in charitable giving for the next few months, and then a downturn as a weak economy takes a toll.

Big charities like United Way will get through it, Gallagher said. “The smaller nonprofits — houses of worship, soup kitchens — they will struggle."