Increased virus risk prompts LAUSD to close, open up food banks for students
As it continues to spread, the novel coronavirus has prompted large-scale shutdowns of school districts, workplaces, and social gatherings, disrupting daily life for families across the world.
The United States’ response came later than that of other countries (President Donald Trump announced a national emergency over the virus last week), and now Americans everywhere are in a constant state of panic: over the state of their finances in an economy in crisis, not having enough home goods like paper goods and, most crucially, whether or not they will be able to avoid exposure to the virus.
As a way to prevent the spread of disease among young Americans, school districts have been shutting down, including the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the second-largest school system in the country which services more than 600,000 K-12 students across 1,000 schools.
The district officially began the shut down on Monday, March 16 and will be shut down for two weeks. For members of the Los Angeles teachers union United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), the adjustments have interrupted the already fraught state of public education.
But given the circumstances, Filipina American Jollene Levid, regional organizer at UTLA, praised the educators for putting the safety and health of students and teachers first.
“I do think that the educators have done a good job at pushing for basic necessities, which is shutting down the schools,” Levid told the Asian Journal, adding that it was the union that pushed for the shutdown last week, not the district.
Preparing for a possible shutdown, teachers over the last couple weeks have been putting together lesson plans for their students ahead of time, providing “virtual teaching” methods online that students can access at home. Some teachers have also time scheduled lesson plans, like assignments scheduled in the morning and others scheduled for later in the day.
Though it’s a convenient, easy way for students to continue their studies at home and maintain some semblance of a normal classroom routine, it’s not a perfect replacement for classroom learning, said Fil-Am Franklin High School social studies teacher Mark Ramos, who is on the UTLA Board of Directors and Levid’s husband.
“There’s only so much you can do through video conferencing, and going through websites cannot replace the one-on-one contact that you have with the teacher and the learner,” Ramos told the Asian Journal.
And that in itself poses an issue of privilege. Ramos acknowledged that “virtual teaching” is really only available for students who have access to computers and the internet, leaving homeless students or families with multiple kids and limited computers.
As educators and school staff work to provide what they can to their students. Though the original plan to open up care centers throughout the district was shot down by the LAUSD, the district has provided a list of Grab & Go Food Centers where students can pick up two free meals each.
As a former school social worker, Levid explained that the success of public education largely relies on the student’s life outside of the classroom. Many lower-income students rely on school meals for their daily nutrition and some who may not have health insurance and a virus that could put the population at large at risk could put those students doubly at risk.
That being said, the shutdown had to be done to keep students and school staff safe and healthy, but teachers do acknowledge that for many students, this doesn’t fix the underlying issues of social inequity that put many lower-income students at risk.
“It makes sense for us to advocate for our students to live and be healthy, but again, I don’t think anyone would think this is ideal for the learning environment,” Levid said.
On the flip side, parents of elementary school-aged children have also been working around the social restrictions to maintain a normal, functioning homelife amid the global crisis.
For Orange County-based Filipina American mother Jennifer Fontanilla, who usually works from home as a financial advisor, “maintaining consistency in terms of scheduling” through this transition for her third-grader son while managing her own workload has been a challenge.
Her son’s teachers sent students home with a homework packet and Fontanilla worked with her son to create a daily routine similar to what he does at school, and, notably, instilling a sense of calm and rationality within the household amid the panic happening across the world.
The constant barrage of news updates on the current case count and death tolls across the country — coupled with discrimination, fear-mongering, and misinformation on social media — has prompted Americans to hoard paper goods and cleaning supplies, evoking end-of-the-world behavior and mentality.
As a financial advisor, Fontanilla is acutely aware of the lengths people will go when they are thrust in a state of panic and fear, but that almost never yields the most productive solutions.
“One of the things I learned was that a lot of what you do isn’t about the number, it’s about behavior management,” Fontanilla shared. “So many times when explaining to clients that when they want to do crazy things like they want to pull out of the market [or] they want to sell, they’re all acting out of fear.”
She went on, “Trying to explain to a child that things are shifting and there are places we can’t go to like restaurants or movie theaters, but we’re all going through this. It’s to keep us healthy, and let’s just roll with it because what are your alternatives? I’m not the type to panic or freak out so when all this happened, [I] just thought, ‘Okay, what do we have here in front of us and what’s the best thing we can do right now to stay healthy?’”
That being said, reminders of the importance of acting rationally are just as important as maintaining hygiene during these times. In regards to the numerous instances of panic buying and hoarding, it’s best to remember to buy what you need because others need those supplies, too, said Los Angeles-based clinical social worker and therapist Erica Tumbaga.
“The hardest part, with capitalism and everyone going into quarantine and panic-mode, you then have people who don’t have anything who are then able to not buy anything. And that in itself causes a whole ripple effect,” Tumbaga explained to the Asian Journal.
Adjacent to the sense of panic amid social distancing and quarantine, it could be difficult to control agitation throughout these transitions, especially for larger families with kids who are now home from school and parents who are working from home.
And for Filipino families, many of whom live with extended members of the family, it could be difficult to cope with the claustrophobic-like feelings of cabin fever.
“I think about my own family and all the aunts and uncles who live together because of caregiving situations, and I mean even without the virus that’s challenging,” Tumbaga shared. “I want to encourage all the safety things when it comes to boundaries, or just having self-care or being able to isolate in a way that has meaning,” Tumbaga shared. “Is it prayer? Is it book reading? Is it journaling? Is it art? And if it’s not doing things in an isolated way, can we do it as a group?”
Maintaining one’s mental health through global crises, and it could be difficult among those who live in crowded households wherein tensions could reach all-time highs during self-quarantine. But Tumbaga shared that doing things as a family and establishing familial unity could help alleviate the rigidity and stress that families may face during this time.
“We recognize there’s a different type of priority when we’re in a situation like this. As anyone who’s been in war or lived in poverty knows, there is a privilege in being able to build a boundary and it is a privilege to build a self-care routine,” Tumbaga pointed out, acknowledging the privilege of living with loved ones versus living alone. “I do want to promote doing group activities because it is right now the hardest time where [we] do actually need to come together in a way that transcends the nonsense and tolerates the tantrums because this is bigger than all of us. This is about social responsibility and the protection of all communities.”