Teaching kindergarten out of her home was not the way Sarath Kraus imagined her son, Roman, reaching that big milestone.
She was excited for her 5-year-old's first day of elementary school when Clark County School District announced that instruction for the 2020-21 school year initially will be conducted online.
Kraus, director of systems change management, and husband Shane Kraus, an assistant professor in psychology, both work full time at UNLV.
“Trying to balance the expectations of work with the responsibility of educating my son is difficult,” Sarath said. “It is a very stressful and anxiety-provoking situation.”
The CCSD year began Aug. 24 with distance learning — a combination of virtual meeting sessions and independent learning modules — due to COVID-19. The school district will reevaluate every 30 days whether in-person instruction will be safe and feasible. But that’s left parents like the Krauses, who rely on daycare options and schools for their children’s education, struggling to find balance.
Luckily, Sarath has a manager who understands. Nicholle Zarkower, executive director of strategy & communication for Business Affairs, reached out to Sarath after CCSD announced remote instruction and asked what kind of work schedule would work for her.
As a 5-year-old, Roman has an attention span that is anywhere from eight to 15 minutes, so working with him by their sides wasn’t much of an option for the Krauses.
“The effect on working parents with schools closed down is tremendous. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for these circumstances,” Zarkower said. “As managers, we have to be flexible, equitable, and communicative to support parents and ensure they continue to succeed in their career.”
Sarath decided on a four-day workweek, getting those 40 hours by logging in earlier each day Monday through Thursday. She spends Fridays focused on Roman's education. Shane shifted his academic schedule so he can do research and fulfill his student obligations three days a week along with some evening and weekend work. He then can devote two days to educating Roman, and the couple uses daycare to fill in some of the gaps.
Every parent’s situation is different. The Krauses have the ability to work remotely, while not every university employee does. For those able to work remotely, a 9/80 schedule may be best for some or staggered shifts for others. For those who cannot perform their duties remotely, there is flexible scheduling and other options to accommodate parents.
“We allow for remote work requests and highly encourage managers to allow flexible schedules that incorporate compressed or staggered work hours,” Ericka Smith, vice president and chief human resources officer, commented. “The university understands the challenges faculty and staff may experience as local schools open with online instruction.”
What is unique about UNLV is the wide spectrum of employees with distinct schedules, employment classes, and responsibilities. Managers and supervisors should recognize that fact and support their direct reports in different ways:
- Be proactive and initiate conversations around what colleagues need
- Set clear expectations around needs and deadlines
- Ask about schedules and be mindful of them
- Commit to regularly evaluating the effectiveness of the alternative arrangement
Other things supervisors in particular can do include prioritizing crucial items, offering additional resources, and setting thoughtful deadlines to support working parents. The most important thing is to listen and be compassionate with your colleagues and supervisees as we all navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects, Smith said. Supervisors and managers are key in ensuring a supportive and humane work environment for working parents.
“When my manager and team check in with me, it makes me feel like they have my back,” Sarath said.
Resources for Parents
Educational Activities & Resources
- Vegas PBS has instructional and online educational resources available for families
- Clark County Library District offers a library e-card to check out books and movies online, free online tutoring, and a YouTube channel with educational video content
- Free activities, lessons, and resources from Lakeshore Learning
- Educational resources and activities from National Geographic Kids
- NASA STEM @ Home activities for students K-4
- Good Housekeeping has a comprehensive list of museums and zoos with virtual tours
- The top educational shows on Netflix for children
- Scholastic resources for online learning
Articles & Podcasts
- Coronavirus Triple Duty: Working, Parenting, And Teaching From Home
- 7 Podcasts for Stir-Crazy Kids during COVID-19
- Supporting Your Child's Literacy at Home
- Self-care resources for parents
- COVID-19 Diaries: Parenting
Mental Health Resources
- UNLV Employee Assistance Program
- UNLV Center for Individual, Couple and Family Counseling
- UNLV PRACTICE, a center committed to providing affordable mental health care
- Mojave Counseling, an outpatient mental health clinic run by the School of Medicine
- United Citizens Foundation is offering therapy sessions (in-person or via telehealth) at no out-of-pocket cost during the COVID-19 pandemic
- UNLV is providing Therapy Assisted Online (TAO) access, an online library of resources to manage anxiety and depression, to all students, faculty, and staff
- Active Minds offers online resources and webinars on staying mentally well during COVID-19
- The Clark County Parks and Recreation Department’s School Daze program offers an in-person educational and recreational day camp for children aged 5-12 at 13 locations for the 2020-21 school year
- The Las Vegas Urban League can help connect parents to childcare options
- Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health search engine for licensed childcare facilities
Food & Assistance
- Clark County School District will continue to provide free meals to students throughout distance learning
- The UNLV Food Pantry is open and providing assistance
- Three Square is providing drive-thru and walk-in food distributions
- The Nevada Independent provides an exhaustive list of local resources for food, shopping, and health care needs