The coronavirus pandemic has been looming in Lake Havasu City since March, when the first positive case was confirmed. For months, families have been forced to adapt to the many changes brought by the virus — from school shutdowns, new hybrid schedules, a lack of recreation options, online learning, changes at work, new regulations, heightened focus on sanitation and more.
Summer was Havasu’s first largest peak of cases, with numbers reaching record highs in July — but those records are now being overshadowed as a second wave begins to rear its head throughout Mohave County. Last week alone, the county’s new cases hit an all-time high with 538 positives. Ten new deaths were also reported.
Raising children is a challenge in itself, and the coronavirus has not made things any easier. Parents, guardians and children alike have felt the strain of the sickness — not only from the covid-19 virus itself, but from the endless ways it’s changed seemingly everything.
Kelsea King is one of those parents. She’s a single mom with two young boys. One is 2 years old and attends daycare, and her eldest is a 7-year-old in second grade.
As a working parent, her dad was able to step in and help take care of her children and school work when classroom doors were closed.
“Grandpa really stepped up for us so I could continue working during this hard time,” she said. While online learning was the only option, her dad helped with Zoom meetings, home economics (“AKA cookie making,” King said), and woodworking classes.
Once she was back from work, King took care of math, reading and other subjects. King was working as a medical assistant for a neurosurgeon and recently started a new position with the public health department as a health education specialist, she said.
“That was rough because I was working full days and then coming home to teach him every night,” King said, “but his teacher worked really well with us and we managed.”
Thankfully, her youngest son’s daycare never closed, she said, adding that their response to the pandemic was “fantastic” and without issues. Her son was able to return to school full time after fall break in October with the rest of Havasu’s elementary school kids.
The summer was especially stressful for the King family. Her oldest son was “really struggling towards late summer with his emotions and feelings,” she said.
“He was always missing his friends and school,” King said. “He was depressed, and it was heartbreaking to not know how to fix the situation.”
Since school has returned full time, he’s improved, King said. But the return of school and the transition of the seasons has not ended the struggle of raising a family in a pandemic.
“’I’m honestly just so overwhelmed with dealing with this new normal we have,” King said. “It’s a struggle, especially when school was canceled. Trying to manage policy changes, emotions, the kids… It was hard,” she said. “It still is hard. But fortunately, we made it work through all of this.”
While not a parent themselves, Elisa Toy has felt the struggle of raising a family through the coronavirus crisis first-hand. The full time ASU Havasu student has two working parents, leaving Toy to care for their 13-year-old sister on a daily basis.
Thanks to hybrid classes at the university where students can choose to attend in person or via Zoom, Toy has been able to stay at home in case their sibling needs help with school work.
“I understand that not many other families are as fortunate and that this pandemic has been a struggle for many,” Toy said. “While it is not much, I do send my love to every family in Lake Havasu that is struggling right now. The children’s parents are true heroes for reflecting their strength through these troubling times on their children. They see you, parents, they know you are trying hard, and they are learning to keep strong and positive from you.”
With pandemic precautions in place, some of the resources that Havasu’s parents have relied on for years are little less accessible.
The city’s Parks and Recreation After School Program, for example, were forced to lower their maximum number of students allowed at each site in comparison to past years “due to the participant to staff ratio being lowered,” Program Coordinator Janice Brown said, adding that there are currently a couple of families still on the waiting list for after school care.
The program “allows working parents the ability to have a safe place for their children to go following the school day,” Brown said. The activities have been adjusted to align with CDC and state health guidelines. Masks are required for both staff and students, handwashing and sanitizing are enforced and squads are kept in separate zones while indoors, Brown said.
Overall, the year has been going very well, she said, adding that they, “along with the community, have felt the impact of the pandemic,” and they hope the program continues to benefit the youth and families of Havasu.
Things have also changed to fit pandemic protocols at Little Knights Preschool, allowing parents to utilize the resource while knowing their kids are kept safe, Director Marie Hendry explained.
KIds have their temperature checked daily, parents aren’t allowed in the classrooms, and all manipulatives, like Lego bricks, are immediately sanitized after use and rotated with other toys, she said. Water bottles have also been booted, replaced by disposable paper cups. The dress-up area is also more limited, and there’s plenty of handwashing – even more than before, Hendry said.
“I think parents are being cautious, but they trust the procedures and our policies,” Hendry said, adding that they seem to be “very appreciative” of the mitigation efforts.
While they did lose some families to other preschool locations due to their delay in reopening, Little Knights Preschool has also welcomed new kids from parents recommending the facility to others in search of a daycare solution.
Wearing masks was an adjustment, Hendry said, but thanks to preparation beforehand, the kids “weren’t even phased” by seeing the adults wear face coverings when they returned to the preschool.
Before the facility’s reopening, Hendry and her three fellow staff members hosted Facebook videos and Zoom sessions to introduce themselves to the kids and show them what their supervisors would look like with and without their masks in an effort to avoid any confusion.
She also pointed out that parents have done “a lot of preparation work” since the pandemic first came to Havasu in March, and the preschool is doing its best to make the environment feel normal for their students – and parents.
One way their staff does so is by posting regularly on ClassDojo (a platform used to connect parents, teachers and students), hosting Zoom meetings, and frequently sharing videos and photos with parents, allowing them a window into what’s going on inside the classroom.
Hendry and her staff are excited to have the kids back, she said, adding that she felt fortunate to have a sense of normalcy with their return. As the rest of the high school campus sat quiet and empty for awhile, save for teachers preparing Zoom lessons and online learning materials in their classrooms, a little corner of the school was revived by the laughter and learning of little ones.