Tuscaloosa city employee concerned about balancing work and remote learning for kids

Remote learning concerns for parents

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WBRC) - Many school systems have made the move to start the year with remote learning to protect students and staff from the spread of coronavirus.

A parent reached out to WBRC FOX6 News because the parent worries about having to choose between family and their job.

“They want to make this a smooth transition, but for a lot of parents I don’t think it will be. Specifically for me, I have to worry about my job,” they told us recently.

This parent asked us not to identify them so it wouldn’t put their job at risk.

They work for the city of Tuscaloosa and worry about the possibility of taking time away from their job so their kids have support at home while virtual learning.

“I don’t want them to fall behind. I don’t want them to lack in any areas. I definitely need to be there during the virtual learning time full time,” the parent went on to say.

On Wednesday, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox said a number of the city’s 1,300 employees are affected by school systems’ decisions to shift to virtual learning in the fall.

“We have several hundred employees who will be impacted and we have sent out a survey to our employees,” Maddox explained.

This parent said the questions included, “Will you be teaching your child virtually? “Do you need time off for virtual learning? Would you be able to work from home?”

“Am I allowed emergency leave? Am I going to be on leave? Am I going to report to work? Are they going to work with my schedule? No one has really informed us of anything,” they went on to say.

This parent said their kids are their first priority. “I know several parents and they’re worried. They’re concerned, but more fearful of having a job so everybody is on standby,” they concluded.

Monday, Scott Holmes, who works in the office of City Attorney and with the city’s Incident Command Department, provided more information of what the city is doing to help employees about concerns involving their jobs and remote learning with their kids.

Holmes said there are federal guidelines for businesses with more than 500 employees who could extend EFMLA leave for people who don’t have any other option for childcare.

They’re required to give them 12 weeks of leave at 66 percent of their pay. “They want to keep as many people on as they can at 100 percent of their pay, trying to work from a department and supervisor level with folks. That is via flex time. Maybe it’s that your child is in a school that is open, but isn’t offering extended day and normally you rely on extended day, so maybe you need to leave at 2:45 to get your child and work at home for the rest of that day,” Holmes said.

Other options included maybe you have a spouse or both of you can swap off, and if your kid is virtual learning maybe you need to work from home so you can help do virtual learning on Monday and Tuesday and your spouse will do it Wednesday or Thursday, according to Holmes.

He added an email went out a week ago and there’s a form online for employees to go through, as well as texts on how to go through the process.

Tuscaloosa Incident Command is setting up a tracking system for planned time off, flexible time work from home time so where they can see potential staff shortages in the future based on scheduling.

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