Working mothers navigate balancing kids’ academics with health risks

MIAMI – Dr. Yvonne Koch specializes in urologic surgery. The mother of three diagnoses and treats conditions that affect the reproductive system, and she has a fellowship with the University of Texas. She knows education opens doors. This is why she is worried about her three sons, who are ages 7, 10 and 12.

Koch, who has a practice in Miami Beach and Coral Gables, has been very concerned about the coronavirus pandemic’s impact in Miami-Dade County. She has been following the number of COVID-19 confirmed cases, the testing positivity rate and the data on hospital capacity.

Koch knows hospitalization rates for children are much lower, but some can develop a rare multisystem inflammatory syndrome.

“I like to look at facts and it’s alarming,” Koch said. “I know a lot of people seem to think ‘Oh! Kids have better immune systems and they can handle things and it’s not like if you’re older,' but I don’t like to play with my kids’ health.”

Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and school board members have said they are working to come up with a strategy to balance both academics and safety during the coronavirus pandemic.

Although federal and state leaders have been pressuring public schools to reopen, Carvalho committed to not doing so if Miami-Dade’s testing positivity rate continues to be above 10%. The rate was 17.8%, according to the latest Florida Department of Health data available on Thursday afternoon.

Carvalho’s decision is in accordance with a joint statement released by The School Superintendents Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“Schools in areas with high levels of COVID-19 community spread should not be compelled to reopen against the judgment of local experts,” the statement said.

This really concerns Jerline Baltimore, a Miami-Dade County resident. The social worker has two sons, who are ages 9 and 10. She is worried that both of her son’s academic advancement could be suffering because they are spending time away from the classroom.

Baltimore said she also worries about children’s mental health during isolation. And as a single mother, Baltimore said she and other single mothers in South Florida really miss sharing the responsibility of raising their children with the help of public school teachers.

“I depend on that social support,” Baltimore said. “I feel like now, us keeping these children home is going to create a bigger gap for us.”

Carvalho and school board members have worked on strategies to address the concerns of parents who are homeless, who don’t have access to technology and on single mothers who like Baltimore need more support.

Learning Policy Institute, a nonprofit organization that receives funding from philanthropic institutions such as Nellie Mae Education Foundation and the California Education Policy Fund, issued a policy brief in May recommending that schools reopen based on data from other countries that kept schools open during the pandemic.

Although recent research in the United Kingdom determined children are not super spreaders, there is still disagreement in the scientific community. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci has warned that there isn’t enough evidence to determine the risks of transmission in children.

“We are doing a natural history study on 6,000 families in the United States,” Fauci said.

The academic year starts Aug. 19. And with the data available, the Miami-Dade school district will be announcing the board’s decision next week.

Regardless of whether or not the district decides to reopen schools, Koch has already decided her three boys are going to be learning in the safety of their home.

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