Liz Beck lost her job in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic and is now overseeing virtual school for her two sons. (As Told To Sarah Ovaska)
I am really scared of this virus. I have two boys, ages 11 and 6, and both are doing school virtually here at our home outside of Clayton in Johnston County.
I feel like we’re in a situation like you used to see in elementary school when the whole class would be punished or made to have a silent lunch because one kid keeps acting up. Well, we’ve been on silent lunch for 89 days because people won’t wear their masks and won’t stay at home.
My husband and I knew from the start of this we wanted to have our youngest son do virtual school for the whole year. My son had a really hard time adjusting to kindergarten last year, and it doesn’t seem worth risking exposure to this dangerous virus for him to just be there two days a week, given it was such a struggle to get him to school last year. He’d have to wear a mask all day and can’t really play during recess. It’s the best choice for him to be learning at home.
But it’s different for my 11-year-old, who is starting sixth grade. My older son is very outgoing, and his mental health suffered being away from school, his friends, and his routines this spring. He’s old enough to keep his mask on, wash his hands, and keep his distance from other kids.
A big reason the school board decided to keep everyone learning virtually so far this year is that our public schools are already overcrowded. There just isn’t the room to have the middle school and high-school students safely be in buildings.
While the situation is not ideal, we have to keep the kids safe. And keep the teachers safe.
Already a Difficult Time
It was a rough year for my family even before the pandemic.
My husband left his HVAC job last year to pursue his dream of becoming a police officer. He’s now training with a local police department, and we’re living off just his income which is $15,000 less than what it was before. It’s been tough. I had just started working at a warehouse in Raleigh after years of being a stay at home mom (daycare would have been too expensive when my boys were little). But I had only been at this new job three weeks when it was shut down because of the pandemic. I applied for unemployment but got denied because I had only been there a short time. And I never got that $600 a week in unemployment from the federal government. I’m not sure why not.
We aren’t on food stamps, but my kids qualify for free and reduced lunch at their schools, so we got extra food benefits on an EBT card. We try to take only the aid we need, but this was unexpected and helped a lot. We got $741. I used that money to stock up on food in April.
I went hungry a lot as a kid, and I don’t want my children to face that. I do everything I can to make sure we have enough to eat, even if it means putting off other expenses or eating less myself.
This year, I go and pick up lunches for both of my boys each day from the nearby elementary school. The schools are handing out breakfast and lunch for any kid right now, and it’s such a big help for me, both because of the money and the fact that I don’t have to worry about making lunch every day.
It’s been heartwarming to see the community come together and say ‘Absolutely feed the children.’ No child should go hungry at this time and no one is arguing about that. That alone is restoring my faith in humanity.
But I worry about the families that don’t have the money to put gas in their cars to get the food, and kids who may be staying home alone by themselves this school year while their parents work. How are they going to get the food they need?
The school district is talking about using the school buses to bring them meals and I hope they do it.
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