MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Juggling careers, distance learning and child care has become an all-too familiar drill for families in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Work for Chalisa Everson went quickly when the pandemic closed Denny Kemp Salon in March.

“It was hard,” Everson recalled.

It’s when the single mom then spent her time helping her kids through distance learning.

“I got unemployment so I could afford to stay home, but right now I can’t afford to not go back to work,” Everson said.

Her son Taj is in 7th grade and her daughter Averie in 3rd in the Edina School District.  Averie has dyslexia and gets special education services.

“Every day was like a tear fest,” Everson said.

She admits virtual school doesn’t work well for someone like her daughter.  But again this fall, family finances left her with little choice.

“I finally realized that if they ever do have to quarantine, I’ll have to quarantine which means I will have to miss two weeks of work and I just can’t do that, so I decided to keep them home,” Everson said.

Everson lives with her parents, who will be able to help with the kids while she’s at the salon where her business is barely half of what it once was.

Forty miles away, the school year will look similar at the Wong home with an 8th, 6th and 2nd grader in the White Bear Lake school district.

“For us these are scary times. But, they are scary times for every family,” their mom, Zoua Vang said.

“It’s hard on everybody but I think a lot of the times folks forget about family’s like ours with someone with a disability and how challenging that can be,” Vang added.

Alyssa, her daughter, has Angelman’s syndrome.  It’s a rare genetic disorder that leads to seizures and developmental delays.

“Anyone who knows Alyssa knows she’s very friendly even being nonverbal she has a lot of friends at school. She will go up and hug them or hold their hand and during COVID times that’s not going to be acceptable,” Darrell Wong, Alyssa’s dad said.

If Alyssa gets any kind of sickness, it makes seizures more likely.  Even a cold can be a matter of life or death.

“We’ve been making it happen because everybody loves Alyssa,” Wong said.

Their family takes as many precautions as possible.  Zoua took a leave from work this summer to manage what’s been happening at home. Their boys stay masked too, all to keep their sister safe.

It’s why next week they’ll again all be home to start school.

“As any parent can attest to, the distance learning is difficult, right. I think when you try to do that with a kiddo with a disability who is nonverbal it’s extra difficult,” Vang said.

The balancing act swings into yet another new season.

“You kind of feel like you’re going into the lion’s den,” Everson said.

WCCO will be checking in with the Everson and Wong families throughout the year.  So, you’ll be able to see their experiences and progress during another uncertain school year.

Liz Collin

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