Bay Area parents juggle full-time jobs while elementary school students quarantine

Elementary school students in parts of the Bay Area are under a mandatory lockdown at home due to exposure to COVID-19. With more parents no longer working from home, juggling the demands of a 10 to 14-day lockdown with a full-time job is proving difficult.

At Foster City Elementary, a 5th-grade classroom is under a 14-day lockdown until Sep. 3 because three students tested positive for COVID-19. The school's fourth-graders are classified as "close contacts" and have the option to temporarily learn remotely for ten days or come to class with recurring negative COVID-19 tests.

On Monday, Paul Schnier and his wife brought their 2nd-grade daughter from the school to a drive-thru COVID-19 test site at the parking lot of the San Mateo Marriott Hotel. A student in her class tested positive for COVID-19.

"It hasn't triggered a full quarantine, but we have an abundance of caution," Schnier said.

Last week a fourth-grade classroom at Montclair Elementary in Oakland went into a mandatory quarantine after just one day of school.

Full-time working parents, many who are back in the office, say that the quarantine period would be tough to juggle.

"It's hugely challenging, but honestly, we have to balance that with the risk of how hard would it be to actually, you know, unfortunately, have a child who is ill?" said Smrithi Khera, who often works 10-hour days, many at the office.

Fan Li, a working mother of two, says she can apply for COVID-19 paid time off to take her kids to get tested, something she needs to do every week in order for them to attend their after-school program where they interact with children from multiple schools. She could also apply for COVID-19 paid time off if her kids needed to quarantine.

"Still very stressful because I have a full-time job to struggle, I have to talk to my supervisor, and allocate my caseload… it is very stressful, exhausting as a working mom,"Li, who is a social worker, said.

Stephanie Chenard, her husband, and third-grade son, Desmond in Alameda went into 10 days of lockdown a few weeks ago, just before school started, after eight-year-old Deslond tested positive for the virus.

"It impacts a lot of things. Jobs specifically, jobs importantly," Chenard said.

She took a few days off from her job as a university administrator, and her husband, who works in catering and events did too. They also worked remotely for part of the lockdown.

But days off from work are finite. Now, they're budgeting them, should Desmond's classroom need to quarantine.

"The ripple effect was overwhelming," Chenard said.