What Options Do Working Parents Have When Remote Learning Starts?

CHARLOTTE — School starts in a few weeks, and many students will be learning remotely from home.

Lots of working parents are wondering what to do, especially if their child isn’t old enough to stay at home alone or needs help keeping up with the schoolwork.

Zach and Erica Anderson are healthcare workers.

“We decided to go into healthcare to help people, and we have been really thrown into the whole COVID thing when it started,” Zach Anderson said.

They said they cannot work from home.

“I mean, my wife has been in the trenches with COVID patients, even on weekends,” Zach Anderson added.

Their 8-year-old daughter, Eniah, starts remote learning soon.

“We have seen how serious this illness is,” Zach Anderson said. “So, we get it. We get that the schools are doing this, and we totally support that 100% and applaud them for doing it.”

He said that doesn’t make it any easier for them.

“We’re stuck. Does one of us stay home? That affects our income, our way of life. She still needs some type of education,” Zach Anderson said.

They asked Action 9’s Jason Stoogenke what choices parents have.

“(It’s) so scary, and I am so glad you are doing the story,” Erica Anderson told Stoogenke.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act

With the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, you get 12 weeks of paid leave to take care of your child because school’s closed. However, it only applies until the end of the year and doesn’t help healthcare workers, first responders or people whose employer has more than 500 workers.

Chances are if the law applies to you, you probably already used some of the 12 weeks since the end of last school year.

Americans with Disabilities Act

If you have a disability, you may be able to work from home.

“In other words, they don’t make it about their child school care issue. They make it about their own health,” said Josh Van Kampen, a labor lawyer.

Family Medical Leave Act

If your child has a documented medical condition, such as ADHD or dyslexia, you may be able to stay home, but it’s not guaranteed to apply to everyone. In addition, you wouldn’t get paid for that time.

“You have nothing to lose by asking for FMLA leave to care for your child,” Van Kampen said. “The worst your employer can do is say no.”

Vacation and sick leave

This depends on your workplace’s policies for time off.

Some, including Van Kampen think Congress needs to expand and extend the FFCPA, so more parents can work remotely and do so for as long as there’s remote learning.

Bottom line

There are options out there, but they aren’t great, Stoogenke said. Also, one size doesn’t fit all. While some options could give you some time off, none will get you through the whole school year.

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