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E-learning poses child-care difficulties in Lakewood Ranch area

Child-care challenges worry East County parents during coronavirus threat.

Jo-Ann Yermak (center) is worried about providing childcare for her two children, Mikenna and Hayden, who are students at Braden River Elementary School, while she works full time and they start e-learning.
Jo-Ann Yermak (center) is worried about providing childcare for her two children, Mikenna and Hayden, who are students at Braden River Elementary School, while she works full time and they start e-learning.
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While Jo-Ann Yermak screens people coming into work at a continuing care retirement community, she worries about her children who are home from school due to closures from the coronavirus.

Her children, Mikenna, a second grader at Braden River Elementary School, and Hayden, a fourth grader at the school, will start e-learning March 30, giving Jo-Ann Yermak, a single mother without family in the area to help her, more cause for concern.

Yermak and several other parents, who will have their children home until at least April 15, are concerned about how they are going to juggle child care and work.

When Yermak found out the School District of Manatee County wasn’t going to have students back on campus until April 15, it was “a gut punch.”

“The first thing that went through my head is, ‘How am I supposed to do everything?’” she said. “‘How am I supposed to take care of the kids and teach them everything they need to know to keep them on track … on top of working full time?’”

Because Yermak’s position is in  the health care industry, working from home isn’t an option for her. She’ll depend on rearranging her work schedule or asking other parents to look after her kids, so she can work while making sure they are completing assignments.

The Early Learning Coalition of Manatee County is trying to persuade state officials to allow the organization to open churches throughout the county and other nonprofit facilities as day care centers because families need child care and some child care providers have closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Compounding the worry is that parents of students in the School District of Manatee County schools must have access to Schoology, the online learning management platform the district will use as it relies on e-learning while the students are off campus.

Tidewell Hospice has partnered with the Lakewood Ranch YMCA to provide child care for Tidewell’s clinical employees, so the employees can continue to provide care to patients amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Although the Y is temporarily closed to the general public, it will provide educational programming, including time in a computer lab for students to log into Schoology.

The program will follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation of 10 students per one teacher for the up to 50 children that will be served. Tidewell Hospice is covering the cost of the program.

“We plan to offer it for as long as the YMCA has staff available,” said Danielle Visone, Tidewell Hospice Family Grief Program Specialist.

Woodland Early Childhood Center, which offers before- and after-school care, is working to set up a computer lab, so when e-learning begins, students in its care will have access to computers. The computers are normally used for Woodland’s private school, Dunn Prep Academy, which is going to the online format following state guidance.

Some parents are able to work from home or have been forced to work at home as a result of the pandemic, but managing work responsibilities while ensuring their children are engaged in e-learning will pose a challenge.

Bella Navas, a fourth grader at Robert E. Willis Elementary School, created a schedule for her online learning while on a flight to Idaho for spring break.

The schedule, which starts at 7:30 a.m. and ends at 9:30 p.m., contains time for math and vocabulary lessons, reading, working on projects and exercising but also time to watch TV, use electronics, play board games and even a minute at 9 p.m. to look at the moon.

Although Navas’ mother, Lauren, might not follow Bella’s schedule exactly, she plans to provide a structured day for Bella and her other daughter, Violet, a first grader at Willis Elementary, while balancing work issues from home.

“I’m probably going to have to do a lot of real work in the morning or at night, and everybody’s going to have to take breaks with the kids,” Lauren Navas said. “You can’t just ignore them all day long and let them fend for themselves, especially with the home schooling.”


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