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Day care finds unique solution to help essential workers

Posted at 10:45 AM, Oct 16, 2020

It may not be a hospital, but these essential workers are on the frontlines teaching children while schools are shut down and relieving parents who can’t work from home.

“We can be open for those parents who have nowhere else to go, who have no one else to turn to,” said Katie Taves, the lead teacher for remote learning at Boingo’s Academy in Visalia, California.

This program is making an incredible impact on parents like Lorraine Filimeno. The single mother of five is also an essential worker. She helps families sign up for unemployment benefits and financial assistance.

“We are out in the community. We deal with people every day, but we’re also parents,” said Filimeno.

When schools closed, Filimeno needed some help herself figuring out how to balance work and her kids’ remote learning.

“My employer wasn’t going to wait for me. You know, everyone is replaceable,” she said.

The mother was worried she might end up needing help from her own office.

“Was I going to have to get on unemployment? I had seen people come into our office and start asking for applications and being worried, and I said, ‘Is that going to be me?’” recalled Filimeno.

She reached out to the day care her daughters went to for after-school care and found the teachers were ready to help.

“If it wasn’t for child care like Boingo’s, I don’t know what I would do,” she said.

Before COVID-19 hit, a large part of the day care was used as an after-school playground. Now, it’s turned into a remote learning classroom for dozens of students in different schools and grades.

The Boingo’s Academy pre-school got a waiver from the state to take on extra elementary school students for all-day distance learning and spots filled up almost instantly.

“Some of these kids can’t even read yet, let alone find the link you’re telling them to find. They need somebody there with the computer,” said Taves.

This relief comes with a cost. For Filimeno, keeping the career she loves and paying for childcare meant training for a second job.

“Without a second income, I cannot afford childcare for 40 hours a week for three kids. It’s very costly," she said. "I know there’s resources out there for me-- cash aid and food stamps--but as I’ve worked for over 25 years. I had gotten off of those assistances."

Now, the single mom is worried, like so many parents in her shoes, that COVID-19 will erase her years of financial stability.

“When this all hit, it felt almost like I was rewinding my life. I wanted to give up as a parent and say, ‘I’m done with working. I can’t afford this.’ But you look at your children, and you say, ‘I gotta get back together, I gotta get going,” said Filimeno.

The mother even battled COVID-19 and was sick for a month, but now, she is back to work and is making sure she can provide for her kids.

With the many layers of stress falling onto parents and teachers, the children have a tough time, too.

“When I see a child not able to follow along, it’s heartbreaking,” said Taves. “Sometimes, it just becomes so overwhelming and they’re just not able to do it, and there’s not much I can do but encourage them. Their little spirits get broken; it’s so sad."

But, these teachers won’t give up, and these parents can’t give up, because they’re working for a future only these children can dream up.