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Remote learning is leaving working parents with few options, big bills

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Cole Lauterbach | The Center Square

(The Center Square) – Many public school districts across the country have shifted from offering some in-person learning options for students to offering only remote learning at the start of the school year.

The change in plans sent many working parents rushing to find either a place for their kids to go while they work or to find a caregiver they could pay to supervise remote learning at home. Either option could end up costing parents thousands of dollars. 

A new study released Thursday from BankRate found 3 out of 5 parents nationwide said remote learning will negatively impact their finances, with more than a third saying they would have to either reduce their hours at work or quit altogether.

“These findings suggest the economic recovery will continue to be slow,” said Ted Rossman, industry analyst at Bankrate. “Most students will be learning remotely this fall, and that alone will strain more than half of their parents’ household budgets."

Some private schools are offering in-person instruction this fall, but the rush to secure spots and the cost of private school put that option out of reach for many families. 

“Parents are scrambling,” said Christy McGlothlin, founder of Home Rule Inc., a home child care company that recently expanded to offer services nationwide amidst the pandemic.

“They’re having to limit their working hours. They’re having to call out of work. There are parents that are losing their jobs.”

McGlothlin said her service offers competitive prices to other childcare companies but still admits an entire year of in-home childcare can cost thousands of dollars. 

In Illinois, nearly 1 million students will be learning remotely when school starts, according to results from an Illinois State Board of Education survey

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has offered guidance for schools to provide in-person learning. Many rural and some suburban districts plan to do so, but many other schools, including Chicago Public Schools and districts in the collar counties, announced they would not be offering any type of in-person option for the start of the school year.

The Chicago Teachers’ Union opposed in-person learning for safety reasons and threatened to strike over the decision to provide some sort of in-person learning option.

Pritzker said Sunday he would not mandate any in-person learning because some schools would not be able to offer it.

In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey ordered schools to provide an in-person model upon request, which brought criticism from teachers and unions. 

In California, strict requirements from Gov. Gavin Newsom have forced parents to form “pandemic pods,” or groups of families that split the cost of private in-person education. According to a CNBC report, some estimates of expenses for in-person teaching in California average $50 an hour with more costs per student. 

Florida teachers' unions are suing local districts to keep them from offering in-person learning.