Two mothers view schools reopening with mixed emotions

One mother says she will send her children back to school; another says she does not want to take the risk



Jackie Eveland, mother and owner of Building Blocks Child Care, said her daughter is thriving with online learning, but understands how younger children struggle.

ABBY DAVIS, Evergreen copy chief

As fall 2020 wraps up for Pullman Public Schools, two mothers and local business owners reflect on managing their careers and their children’s distance learning during the pandemic. 

As someone with a Type A personality, Jackie Eveland, mother and business owner, said she likes to have her expectations set, but the pandemic has rocked that mentality.

“If we’re going to look at this in any type of positive light,” Eveland said, “it has made me personally more flexible and able to go with the flow a little bit more.”

Eveland is the owner of Building Blocks Child Care Center. The center serves children 1 month to 12 years old. It is operating at 70 percent capacity, which allows for about 55 students. 

It is hard to balance work and home life, Eveland said. When school started for her children, she reduced her in-person hours at the center, something she had to learn to accept. She works about 20-25 hours at the center, and 20-25 at home each week. 

“I feel like a ping-pong ball — back and forth,” she said. “Luckily, my house and the center are only a minute apart.” 

Eveland reduced the hours the center is open, but she has been working a lot more nonetheless. She said her hours have increased because of the large number of messages she receives from parents at all hours of the day. 

“I’ve gotten so good at boundaries,” she said, “but when someone is emailing you about their child’s illness, or a teacher is calling in sick, those are things you can’t really ignore.”

Eveland said she feels a lot of “mom guilt.” 

“I need to be there for my families, but I have to be there for my kids too,” she said. 

Eveland is the mother of a second and a sixth-grader, both of whom are enrolled in Pullman Public Schools. 

While some children, like Eveland’s daughter, thrive at online school, she said she sees how younger children are having a harder time. 

“Elementary kids and online learning is difficult,” she said. “I see that not just with my second grader, but with the children we have enrolled in our learning pod.”

Eveland said she wants her children back in school, but only if the health department recommends it. She hopes her daughter will experience her first year of middle school, but she also wants them to be safe.

Pullman Public Schools plans to reopen Jan. 4, starting with K-1 students, according to the Pullman Public Schools website.

When students return to school, Eveland said she would not be concerned about any safety risks. She is confident in the COVID-19 safety regulations the school district will put in place.

“Everything we do comes with risk,” she said. 

Mandi Denning, mother of three and owner of Healing Hands Massage Clinic, sees schools reopening a little differently. Because of the pandemic, Denning said she reduced her hours at work so she could help her children with school.

Denning said she does not want her children to return to school, but her husband wants their children to return because he believes schools are prepared to handle any safety concerns parents may have. 

“There’s so much changing about what we think we know about the virus,” she said. “I don’t feel confident enough with the idea of the possible long-term repercussions.”

Denning said she worries about families in the community who do not take the pandemic seriously. Some children are not as good at washing their hands and wearing a mask like others.

“The teachers are incredible,” she said, “but I wouldn’t expect a teacher in a classroom throughout the entire day to be able to watch these kids and make sure that they have their masks on and that they’re not taking it off and rubbing their face or high-fiving.”

Denning said she is glad the school district is not reopening schools earlier because of parent pressure. It is okay to focus less on academics and more on emotionally supporting children, she said.  

“[Parents] are really emotional about what’s happening with our children,” she said, “but emotions don’t always make the best decisions.”

Each family is trying to do what is best for them. Denning said she appreciates people’s empathy for those with different viewpoints about schools reopening. 

“I think people have been generally respectful about it and kind and have tried to be empathetic to the other side,” Denning said. “That has been something that has made me very proud of our Pullman parents.”