Taking care of a child with medical conditions can drain a parent’s energy. Doing so during the reign
of the novel coronavirus brings on a whole new set of challenges. But that is not where the difficulties stop for single mother Laura Boyer.
Her work, like that of all other substitute teachers, has been put on hold for an uncertain time frame. While she acknowledges the financial hit she and her daughter have suffered, Boyer voiced many other concerns. She said she can easily fill up more than a sheet of paper with all the medical conditions her fifth grade daughter suffers. Boyer wants to ensure that the coronavirus does not come near her daughter’s weak immune system, but as the only adult supporting her home, even the task of getting groceries becomes complicated.
“For me,” Boyer said, “it’s stressful to worry about how to get food. Today they wanted me to pick up textbooks from [my daughter’s]school, but I was mortified. It’s nerve-racking when you can’t leave your house; it’s like
this monster outside the front door that you can’t see.”
Losing her only job will not be easy to handle, but she is not alone in this boat. Three substitute teachers working in Hays CISD shared an array of struggles and fears about being out of work. Some substitute teachers are the
sole breadwinners for their family while some do it as a job to support their partner’s income. Hays CISD is also limited on the aid they can offer to these contract employees, who are now all unemployed.
For the time being, the district advises substitute teachers to apply for unemployment assistance until schools reopen. Those in long-term agreements will be paid during this period.
“We recognize this is a difficult and uncertain time, particularly for our substitutes who are valued assets for our students and teachers,” said Tim Savoy, chief communication officer at Hays CISD. “We will continue to watch for
opportunities that may help them.”
Even if school resumes this year, Boyer would be too afraid to work or send her daughter to school. She wants to ensure that there is zero danger of contracting the virus before she takes that step.
But if school does not resume until August, substitute teachers will not be paid for a long time. Schools open in late August, and because it is the beginning of the year, teacher absences are minimal. Substitutes begin getting their jobs in September, so their checks sometimes do not come in until October, Boyer said.
One substitute teacher in Hays CISD, who asked to remain anonymous, has already felt the financial weight of losing her two jobs: substituting and tutoring. Her husband’s total income is $500 a month. They depended on their three jobs to support their family of five.
She understands that the district cannot help substitute teachers, but she also hopes that they can try to use some of them to help with other jobs.
This substitute teacher suggested several ideas she believes her work mates can take on. “Even if we had a Facebook Live of reading a book to the kids, helping small groups of kids with math, preparing materials for any number of things, or doing a technical training session.”
Charisa McBee-Cross-land’s family does not fully depend on her income, but they use it for things like her children’s extracurricular activities and going out to family dinners. She said their family may soon begin experiencing the financial ramifications because her husband is now the sole provider, but so far they have not taken a big hit.
The three women expressed a shared concern: missing their students. Oftentimes, substitute teachers take jobs in a couple of schools and they get to know their students. Boyer, McBee-Crossland and the other substitute said they miss working with the kids.
Quarantining has also taken an emotional toll on these women. Boyer, only living with her young daughter, said she will soon start missing having conversations with adults.
“If you had a flu and were out of work for a week,” Boyer said, “you won’t fall apart from not seeing your coworkers. But in a month, you will miss it all.
Although there are many negative effects experienced from the quarantine, these women shared one positive perspective; the lockdown allows them to spend more time with their children.
It seems difficult when many do not see an end in sight, but McBee-Cross-land has tried to continue carrying her upbeat and cheerful mentality. She said her family has lost their home to a fire before and, although during those times it seemed impossible to rebuild their life, at the end they found a way. This is the mentality she wants her and her mate to use.
“We’ve lost our whole home in a fire and we’ve rebuilt,” McBee-Cross- land said. “We’ll make it through it and push through it. You’re not going to be stuck in it forever, but it’s just difficult when you’re in it.”