Jocelyn Smith with two of her rescue horses, Penny (dark, larger horse) and Rico (Shetland pony).

Out of school, out of work — Working parents dealing with provincial school closures

School closures increase financial fears for working parents who now are staying home indefinitely.

With an evening chill in the air outside on Sunday Mar. 15, across Alberta families were staying warm indoors, preparing for the work and school week ahead.

All those plans came to a halt with a province wide announcement from Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw, that all K-12 schools, post secondary classes, licensed child care, out-of-school care programs and preschools across the province are cancelled effective immediately.

With less than 24 hours to prepare for an immediate loss of childcare plans, many in the province and community were left scrambling.

“I worked only during school hours 9 to 3 because I cannot afford childcare,” Samantha Carr from Millet says. “I have no idea what I am going to do, my employer gets absolutely no notice of me no longer able to work, my child tax does not even cover groceries for two weeks, let alone a month. I hate to put our entire financial well being on my husband.”

Parents like Carr felt the immediate impact of these school cancellations. With most unable to find last-second child care arrangements, many like Carr are forced to stay home and take a financial hit for being out of work.

From online to front porches: neighbours supporting each other during COVID-19 isolations

Similar to Carr, Jocelyn Smith had to give her employer next to no notice of her sudden need to stay home with her two-year-old son James. This left her place of work, a kennel, short handed and coupled with a flood of cancelled travel plans, not enough business during the pandemic to stay open.

“I’m just really stressed and overwhelmed right now,” says Smith, “we relied on my income to feed the animals.”

Living on a farm just west of Millet, Smith has over one hundred animals to take care of, most of which are rescues. On top of their feed, the majority of her rescue animals require different medications or treatments that Smith pays for out of her own pocket.

From numerous farrier visits for her rescue horses, ointments for her rescue dogs, to bottle feed supplies for rescued cats and goats, Smith easily spends $1,000 a month or more on her animals.

With no stack of groceries because she didn’t take others’ panic shopping in response to COVID-19 very seriously, Smith’s main concern isn’t that the groceries stores are too empty for her, but rather her animals.

Smith relies heavily on a program called Loop to help feed her farm. Loop works with farmers and charities to donate grocery store surplus that can be used as animal feed.

Now Smith finds herself at home with her animals and son all day with a vast uncertainty about how this will affect her and her place of work long-term.

With little notice about day care closing both Smith and Carr’s employment and financial security has been impacted greatly.

“This is a very stressful time for everyone who worked only during school hours and now can’t work at all,” Carr says.

With no set date on when, or if, schools and daycares will reopen before summer, many parents in the community face the same issues as Carr and Smith. Too many unwillingly looking unemployment in the eye.

Everything that has transgressed over the past week has given Smith a “great feeling of fear, because I don’t know what to expect the next weeks, months…”

A fear that also seems to be felt throughout the community and province, with daily routines thrown into upheaval and no timeline predictions on when lives pre-coronavirus will be restored.



shaela.dansereau@pipestoneflyer.ca

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A pen full of an assortment of Jocelyn Smith’s rescue animals, a dwarf pony, three goats and a cat.

One of Jocelyn Smith’s rescue roosters, recovering from frostbite on his crest (top of his head).

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