Community support helps Summit parents balance work and child care during school quarantines
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the gender of Gretchen Broecker’s 10-year-old twins.
With children under the age of 12 still ineligible for coronavirus vaccines, parents of young kids have to balance work with child care when their children need to quarantine.
Summit School District spokesperson Mikki Grebetz said the school district follows guidelines from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which requires quarantines for close contacts in the event of a positive case. She said revised guidance is expected from the state health department prior to the start of next school year.
Gretchen Broecker has a 13-year-old daughter who just received her first vaccine dose and 10-year-old twin girls who are in fourth grade at Frisco Elementary.
Broecker’s teenage daughter started the school year in the district’s hybrid learning program but switched to online this spring. When her eldest was still attending school in person on select days in the fall, Broecker had to work from home every time her twins had to quarantine. Now that her older daughter is home full time, it has been easier for Broecker to go to work knowing the 13-year-old can keep an eye on her younger siblings.
Broecker’s twins are in their fourth or fifth quarantines of the school year, and she said this one has been the hardest for them: They had to miss soccer, and they couldn’t go to school on their 10th birthday Thursday, May 20.
“It’s really hard because I feel like they go to school for two weeks, and then there’s a quarantine, and they’re off for two weeks,” Broecker said. “I feel like I could look at the calendar and just determine whether they’ve been in school more than they’ve been out of school. … It’s probably pretty evenly split.”
Johanna Kugler works full time at Open Arms Childcare and Preschool in Breckenridge and has been working in person since June. She said her job is flexible with allowing her kids to go to work with her when school is online on Wednesdays, but balancing work and caring for her own children during quarantines has been difficult.
Kugler has three kids at Dillon Valley Elementary, and they’ve all had to quarantine at separate times. When the pandemic started last spring, she was working from home teaching her students via Zoom while helping her kids with their schoolwork, too.
Once the whole family was back in person, she said it was easier to balance until her kids had to quarantine. Kugler said finding balance is important because she still wants her kids to embrace life. She said they all play sports and dance at the Alpine Dance Academy and have spent more time outside throughout the pandemic.
“I’d much rather have them be cautious but still enjoy life,” Kugler said. “We’re not going to have them be completely sheltered.”
Adrienne Rynes has two kids at Frisco Elementary, and though she said she’s lucky because of how flexible her job is, multitasking while the kids are home can be hard.
“It’s really challenging for the kids because if they’re home with us, they still need help with schoolwork if they’re doing online schooling,” Rynes said. “Or I feel like they’re on technology all day long. It’s just really challenging, and it’s not ideal.”
Rynes and her husband are both fully vaccinated, and she said she helps protect her kids’ health by leading by example and wearing a mask. She said it can be hard for the kids because they still have to wear masks in places where many others don’t.
“Even though there are places of business that you don’t have to wear a mask in, we’re still wearing masks,” Rynes said. “I think that’s also a really hard perception for kids because it’s like, ‘Well, why are we being punished? Why do we have to continue to do this and adults don’t?’”
Dr. Christine Ebert-Santos, a pediatrician in Frisco, said it’s reasonable for school-age students to have to wear masks until they are able to be safely vaccinated. She added that the many restrictions implemented due to the pandemic mean kids are staying much healthier.
She said continuing to mask and sanitize regularly will continue to keep kids safe not just from the novel coronavirus but other regular infections, too.
“I think the most challenging thing right now is, you know, kids are kids, and they don’t always understand why we’re asking them to do something when everybody else doesn’t have to,” Rynes said.
Rynes added that the town of Frisco has made things easier for everyone by hosting activities for kids to engage in every Wednesday after they finish their online learning. She also said the school has created a great online learning experience for students.
Kugler said she doesn’t think she could have gotten through the year without support from the Summit community.
“I know that teachers in the school district have had it really hard, and I know that the employers have had it really hard, and also the families and children have had it really hard,” Kugler said. “I don’t think we would have survived without our community.”
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