The 3 sides of COVID-19 in my community

Leaning against the door frame, still in her pajamas, with a tired and sad look on her face, my mom said to me, 

“Is this the end of the world as we know it?”  

My mom – Myriam Ramirez

I was standing about 15 feet away from her, in the outside corridor of her apartment building. I was wearing a face mask to protect both of us, and was trying to have a conversation from that long distance without disturbing her neighbors. It was the first time we were seeing each other in two weeks. And at that moment, I realized how isolation has many faces.   She, at age 77, has to be all by herself, while I share my hectic space  with my wife and two sons.

I calmed her and told her that everything was going to be OK, but as I drove my car back home, I was thinking exactly the same thing. Is this crisis a sign of how the world is going to change?  I’ve seen its effects at home, but how is our community of 6 preschools, over 120 employees, and more than 700 families going to be impacted in the long run? How will  early childhood education need to change in a world of isolation?

Thinking back to March 13, I remember when I read the news on NBC6, our local station, that both Miami Dade and Broward counties had closed their schools for two weeks — including the week of spring break.  We had to act quickly, and made the difficult but ethical decision to close our six preschool centers.

The tough side

A couple weeks before, those schools were alive and vibrant during the day with the loud voices of children in the playground. Now, they exude a scary quietness of empty buildings, playgrounds and parking lots.

First Steps International Academy

Our company was able to pay all our staff for two weeks, but after thatwe had to make the tough decision to either reduce hours or stop paying most of our 120 team members. Although about 50% of other schools have reopened,   the attendance at the schools that opened near ours was less than 10%, according to our Marketing Director, Consuelo Mora.

First Steps International Academy

Our company was able to pay all our staff for two weeks, but after thatwe had to make the tough decision to either reduce hours or stop paying most of our 120 team members. Although about 50% of other schools have reopened,   the attendance at the schools that opened near ours was less than 10%, according to our Marketing Director, Consuelo Mora.

Once reality set in, parents realized that they won’t be able to continue paying for a school that is closed. As School Director at Kinovu Preschool, Ms. Rebeca Romero notes, “It is very hard to see the reality of the families you serve, and then see how their withdrawals translate into a new reality for our staff. They won’t be getting a paycheck either.”

Similarly, Ms. Jessica Trujillo, the school director at Bright Minds International Academy, shared how difficult it has been to change her daily work routine by working on her laptop at home all day, and dealing with the fact she’ll get only 30% of her salary.  The company is trying to create a virtual preschool to serve parents and students at home. We plan to provide online activities led by teachers and school directors. By doing this, we are trying to stay afloat and continue to at least pay part of our team members’ salaries.

The impact at my home is immediate too, as we have to juggle work, daily chores, and getting our kids to complete their academic tasks.  My wife, the mother of our two very active boys, said to me, “I have to work from home, be a parent, and now be a teacher for my children.” She is right. I It is not easy to make such a transition in such a short time. I think, overall, that the community is exhausted because of this new reality.

The uplifting side

The reality is that things are just getting started, and there is a lot of concern about the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, there are always positive side effects that emerge from crises like this one.

Photo courtesy of Analia Schweiker – At her home office

Working from home is new to many in our community, and hence they are learning new skills and forming new habits. Analia Schweiker, who works as an administrative assistant at Edu1st, says that she was not prepared to work from home, but in a matter of days she adapted quickly and learned all the skills she needs to make it work for her.

“I think that our team has adopted the best methods to get work done on time and effectively,”

Analia Schweiker

The Finance & Human Resources Director at Edu1st, Camila Grau, thinks she is fortunate to have a great desk space where she can work and not be interrupted. But best of all, her son can sit next to her to and complete his school work.

Photo courtesy of Camila Grau – At her home office

My sister, Juanita, has told me that she and her husband have developed a fun routine to work out together in their apartment. She explained that they are exercising more consistently and are motivated than before. In our house, exercise has also become a family thing. It used to be  extracurricular activities for the kids, and my wife and I did our own stuff. Now we all exercise at the end of the day, mixing biking, soccer, frisbee and roller skating.

Social distancing as a family also means that we enjoy more quality time together. My wife and kids think that dinner tastes better than before. I am still thinking about why. Perhaps we are valuing the food we have even more, and cooking it with more heart. Besides having dinner together, we have increased our movie watching, cuddling and popcorn time.

Social distancing does not necessarily mean no socializing. Camila has found a new conversation partner in one of her neighbors.. They now have a daily routine at nights where they chat over the fence while drinking a cup of tea.

The wonderful side

Can we imagine a different world of early childhood education, one where isolation becomes normal part of our lives?  I think that the COVID-19 crisis is giving us a glimpse of what could be a not-so-distant future. In less than two weeks, we as a community were able to launch an online early childhood education program. We call it  “Pre-K To Go.”

Edu1st To Go – Circle time on Zoom

Analia Schweiker, mother of Dayana at our Kinovu Preschool, described in detail her experience as she started online classes for her 4-year-old.  She said,

“I am pleased to have been able to watch my child at the classes, sharing with the teacher and the other children. It’s crazy, the ability to adapt that humans have.”

Analia Schweiker

We don’t know what the future holds, but the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly forced us to adapt, prepare, and try to understand what the future might bring.  One thing’s for sure — high quality, early childhood education, however it is provided, is key for the development of growing minds today and in the future.

Sources

List of all interviews

  • Rebeca Romero
  • Consuelo Mora
    • Marketing Director
    • cmora@educationfirstinc.com
    • 03/25/2020
    • Internal Communications
  • Camila Grau
  • Analia Schweiker
  • Jessica Trujillo
    • School Director at Bright Minds International Academy
    • jtrujillo@brightmindspreschool.com
    • 03/292020
    • Email Interview
  • Efrain Cuellar
    • Brother in Law – IT Consultant
    • efrain.cuellar@live.com 
    • (786) 382-5310
    • 3/26/2020
    • Email Interview
  • Juanita Carrillo
  • Marcela Vega
    • Wife – Marketing Manager
    • 954.804.64.69
    • 3/29/2020
    • Personal Interview
  • Myriam Ramirez
    • Mom – Grandma
    • (954) 805-4721
    • 3/26/2020
    • Personal and Phone Interview

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *