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Working Parents Struggle With COVID-19 School Closures

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - It's a daily dance for parents trying to balance school closures, COVID exposures and their own careers.

KDKA's Meghan Schiller explains why some moms just want some relief.

Every parent knows the drill: the sudden text, phone call or voicemail saying, "We are sorry, but school is closed and we're learning remotely." For working parents, that sets off a chain reaction that some say is getting old.

The picture of her son doing remote learning looks sweet, but mother Dr. Abby Foulds says the reality is this: "It's very hard, especially because I have another son in daycare and he's also out today, so two children doing two different things is really difficult," said Foulds. "It's really hard to stay focused on your work. It's basically impossible."

Seven-year-old Owen Perez spent Monday on his laptop learning from home. His Pittsburgh elementary school was one of 20 closed because of staffing shortages in Pittsburgh Public Schools. Numb and frustrated, Foulds asks this: "We talk about caring for children and families, but where is the support? There isn't. It isn't there."

Parents find themselves split. Some want schools to close while cases surge and stop the day-to-day calls. Foulds wants her kids in the classroom, even if it means longer days for her.

"You know the workday kind of never ends. I'm always checking my email, I'm always doing something small after the kids go to bed," said Foulds.

Pittsburgh Public Schools is just a sample of a statewide and nationwide problem.

Matt Edgell with the Pennsylvania State Education Association tells KDKA's Meghan Schiller countless other districts are struggling.

"We do have a shortage of classroom teachers because of COVID. A lot of people are sick, a lot of people are having to quarantine and it's putting stress on the system," said Edgell.

The PSEA is the state's largest teacher union, and it represents 9,000 people across 90 different locals. Many of those teachers are home sick and subs depend on supply and demand.

"You might have 100 subs on your list, but you've got 43 or 44 other districts in Allegheny County competing for them," said Edgell.

Edgell hopes Gov. Tom Wolf's recent signing of the new law Act 91 will expand the pool of eligible substitutes who can fill these openings and get the state in a better spot.

"Eliminating some of the time limits, allowing folks that could perhaps only do 20 days in the classroom to be able to do 180,  for a limited period of time, just to alleviate this problem and we'll see how that goes. Hopefully, it has an impact," said Edgell.

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