What was supposed to be just a week off for spring break has turned it to three weeks off for students and families due to the coronavirus pandemic in our midst.
So how are parents adjusting with young students home, while still trying to keep their day jobs?
For Rachael Green, the branding and marketing specialist for AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar, it’s been trying.
“It’s been hard,” Green said, noting her two boys go to Rocky Bayou Christian School in Niceville and got out a week earlier than most Okaloosa County students.
Rocky Bayou Christian School’s campuses in Niceville and Crestview closed March 9 when a case of coronavirus not directly associated with the school was confirmed. The rest of Okaloosa County schools began their spring break March 16. But with the coronavirus spreading through Florida, schools are closed until April 15.
“It’s been a balancing act and we are grateful and blessed to have family locally to help out,” she said.
Green has been able to split her days between the office at AJ’s and at home with the two boys, Tommy, 12, and Tyler, 10.
In the meantime, Green said the boys have been fishing a lot in the backyard, playing with LEGOs and putting puzzles together.
And she and her husband, Jim, have been trying to limit their screen time on electronic devices.
As for Angela and Eric Hayles, they have a couple of students at Destin Middle School.
Angela works at Noah’s Ark Preschool while Eric is a boat captain.
“The kids are going to hear the word corona a lot,” Angela said. “But I don’t want them to fear. I want them to know the word, know it is a virus, and know we will get through it.”
Hayles said she is keeping the kids busy with crafts, outdoor activities as well as cooking together.
She said they are “enjoying the pause button.”
“I created journals for the kids to keep their minds moving, and gave them prompts (to fill in),” she said.
For example, choose to love.
"What could you do to make someone feel loved? Just a simple letter, phone call, because we can’t reach out and hug our neighbors,“ Hayles said.
The extra time off has allowed them to cook together as a family.
“Last night we made pizzas for the first time ever ... and we’ll do it again,” she said.
The Hayles are also enjoying the outdoors with time on the kayak, paddleboards and even some fishing.
“And our dog has never been happier with how many walks she is getting,” she said.
“Our lives are so different right now, but we are still the same,” Hayles said. “I am their mother (not their teacher), I want to guide them to be the best they can be. Just as they are still siblings, not classmates. They will make different choices, they will aggravate each other; but they will also learn to work together.”
As for Kati O’Brian, a single mother of two, softball coach at Destin Middle and branch manger of Element Funding in Fort Walton Beach, her plate is full.
Neverthelss, like most, she is making it work along with help from her significant other, Travis Reynolds.
“I am blessed enough that I can work remotely or go into office,” O’Brian said.
“I am the branch manager, so while I am not allowing clients to come into the office, I am still going into the office in order to get things done,” she added, noting she is spitting her time between office and home.
O’Brian’s children, Eli, 9, and Ansleigh, 6, both go to Mary Esther Elementary.
She said the children will start virtual school next week and they’ll be monitoring their education and making sure they stay on task.
As for keeping the kids busy, she said they have done a lot of work around house and yard as well as spending quality time together watching movies, playing sports outside and cooking together.
Although the coronavirus has disrupted schedules, she’s still thankful for the time spent with family.
“We are honestly grateful for the opportunity to have family time and make the best of it. I’m blessed that mortgages aren’t currently being affected other than fluctuating rates on a daily basis,” she said.