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Pressures build on parents juggling jobs, virtual learning | Local News



Joelene Green has a new office mate: 9-year-old daughter Abby.

Green is an office/accounting assistant for the Port of Skagit, and Abby is a fourth-grade student at Island View Elementary in Anacortes. Once a week, Abby will participate in online classes from her mother’s office west of Burlington.

The port recently adopted a policy to allow some employees to bring their children to work. The goal is to help parents struggling to manage their jobs and remote schooling, said Patsy Martin, the port’s executive director.

“Families are bearing the brunt of this, and when they can’t send children to school, they get really stuck,” she said.

The policy is one tool employers in Skagit County are using to offer more flexibility to working parents.

Green said she panicked when the Anacortes School District announced school would start with at-home learning this fall. Though she can work from home, she needs to go into the office sometimes. Her husband can’t work exclusively from home either.

“When (the port) offered this, it was a huge relief,” she said.

Parents are feeling new pressures as they juggle jobs and kids.

“The biggest thing I have felt is that the amount of responsibility has increased,” Green said. “Now I’m a mom, wife, a home caregiver, a teacher and tutor.”

Making adjustments

The port modeled its bring-your-child-to-work policy after one adopted by the city of Mount Vernon.

“We anticipate there are just a handful of staff who may use this, but we felt it was an important option,” said Mount Vernon Mayor Jill Boudreau.

She said employees also may work altered hours, or take vacation or federal leave to spend time with their families.

Some private businesses are also making adjustments to support personnel with children.

Mount Vernon manufacturer Goodwinds Composites has purchased laptops and set up a virtual private network for employees with kids to work at home, co-owner Amelia Cook wrote in an email.

“None of our production personnel have children, so we haven’t had to look at accommodations for those in the physical manufacturing plant, only at the administrative level,” she said.

Cook said the last thing the company wants to do is make employees choose between their children and their jobs.

“We will do what we can, for as long as we can, to keep the business running smoothly with everyone working,” she wrote.

Janicki Industries is providing flexible schedules and expanding use its leaves of absence. It’s also allowing employees to use company printers for school materials, said Steven Lynn, director of marketing for Janicki.

In Stanwood, attorney Dale Wagner has hired a tutor and rented a space for his employees’ school-age children to go to three days a week for remote learning assignments while their parents work.

“We’re forced to make some hard choices, and there is no good solution,” said Wagner, who specializes in disability and workers’ compensation issues. “What are you going to do with working parents who have to choose between working and their students? It’s a complicated issue.”

The employees’ school-age children gather at the South Camano Grange and use cellular hot spots to connect to the internet to complete classwork. Wagner has also invested in a cell signal booster for the building.

“I need my employees here, so if this is what it takes, then I’ll help any way I can,” he said. “There are some things that can be done remotely, but not many. I don’t want my employees to be short a paycheck, but I also want to run a business.”

In La Conner, the Museum of Northwest Art (MoNA) restructured its education department to provide more flexibility to employees.

As MoNA’s full-time education director, Ellie Cross found she had fewer child care options for her 16-month-old daughter and could not rely on her mother-in-law to babysit due to concerns about spreading COVID-19.

To help, MoNA created a new position — community outreach coordinator — to allow Cross to work fewer hours, and then reallocated some of her duties to two other staff members.

“I feel fortunate as a family we were able to afford me taking a pay cut, and my workplace was willing to work with me,” she said.

Cross said the current challenges exacerbate issues such the wage gap between male and female workers. When parents decide who stays home with the kids, it is often mothers who have to give up their jobs if their incomes are lower, she said.

Increased inequities

John Sternlicht, CEO of the Economic Development Alliance of Skagit County, said another reason more women may leave the workforce is because of societal pressure to be caregivers for their families.

“Employers need to recognize that fathers are parents the same as mothers, and it does not automatically fall on the mother to be responsible for what happens to the children,” he said.

Sternlicht said companies can help by offering flexible hours and exploring bring-your-kid-to-work policies or on-site child care.

“The best-case scenario for someone who has children at home is that the parents are able to work remotely, and they can all be in the same physical space,” Sternlicht said.

But that isn’t always possible for jobs that don’t involve sitting at a computer.

Even in situations with both parents working from home, there are challenges such as technology and online access, Sternlicht said.

He has heard from families who find that poor internet connections make it difficult to do remote work and learning under one roof.

Israel Arreola, a Sedro-Woolley High School sophomore, said it’s impossible for two people to use Wi-Fi at the same time in his home.

He goes to the Helping Hands Solution Center, where he volunteers, to use its Wi-Fi while school is in session so a sibling can work at home. Yet, traveling to Wi-Fi isn’t an option for everyone.

“Some families only have one car, and that’s for the parents going to work,” Arreola said.

He is increasingly concerned about how others are managing.

“I’ve been worrying about the Hispanic community going through this,” he said. “They don’t have fair access to Wi-Fi.”

Concrete district helping out

East Skagit County has long had inconsistent internet access, so the Concrete School District arranged for small groups of students to attend in-person remote learning centers. There, they get access and help from district staff, Superintendent Wayne Barrett said.

“The intent is to give as much access as we can to the internet,” he said. “We are unique — we have areas where we have nothing.”

In cooperation with community partners, the district has set up remote learning sites at the Marblemount Community Hall, Rockport Bald Eagle Interpretive Center and Skagit County Fire District 10’s Birdsview Fire Station.

“We’ve got to have some place for our kids to go to keep learning,” said Fire District 10 Chief Rod Coffell. “We’re a community; we’ve got to take care of each other.”

The district also will set up a learning site on its own campus, Barrett said.

Each site will be staffed by district employees trained in the online learning platform and in health and safety protocols, he said.

For now, parents can register their children for one two-hour session per day. The district has purchased an additional 40 internet hot spots to lend out to families, but that still isn’t enough, Barrett said.

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UH-MC: Plenty of interest in nursing programs | News, Sports, Jobs




Mark Vincent (from left), Jade Dela Cruz, Anna Gilarski and Miki‘ala Maynard take a selfie while leaving the hospital after their final clinical was over. These students of the University of Hawaii-Maui College graduated in May. — Photo courtesy of Anne Scharnhorst

While the COVID-19 pandemic brought plenty of uncertainties, it’s made one thing clear: the importance of local nurses, says an associate professor at the University of Hawaii-Maui College.

Fortunately, in-state nursing schools like UH-Maui College had recruited just enough in recent years to meet and fill the demand, with about 80 percent of program graduates entering the Maui County workforce.

“The pressure and the need for qualified RNs on Maui is so acute,” said Anne Scharnhorst, who’s also the Allied Health Department chair of the nursing program. “We don’t have to recruit one bit, we have so much interest. We’re training the number that we feel like will get a job, and we also feel like we can flex up or down.”

Scharnhorst said that between travel restrictions and testing centers operating at half capacity to meet social distancing protocols, nursing students have had a “really hard time” getting their license exams completed; however, 37 students still graduated in May, only two fewer than last year.

Of the UH-MC graduating class, up to 30 will be hired by Maui Memorial Medical Center and some by other places like Hale Makua.

“The job market for the new nurses has been really strong for the last three years,” she said. “A lot of kids go to Mainland and get a job because they can’t afford to live here, so to have a series or set of jobs where people can actually stay here and work here and live, you know, the college and places in the community really puts a high value on that.”

The Hawaii State Center for Nursing released its Hawaii Nurse Education Capacity Report for the 2018-19 academic year last week, which shows that schools of nursing graduated 531 students from pre-license programs, a 20 percent increase from 2017-18. The report includes data from registered nurses who graduated from in-state schools between 2015 and 2018 and who completed the 2019 Nursing Workforce Supply Survey.

There are eight in-state schools of nursing across four counties. Of these, six are governed by the University of Hawaii system. The other two schools are not-for-profit private institutions located on Oahu.

UH-MC used to admit 42 qualified students into nursing programs twice annually but is now only admitting 42 once a year to adjust to the market and community needs.

About 100 students apply every year to the college’s nursing program.

“The goal is to educate how many Maui needs. We’re not trying to educate people to move,” Scharnhorst said. “It’s Maui County resources. Nursing programs are very expensive.”

UH-MC gives points to applying students for their prerequisite courses and pre-entrance exam. Additional points are given to a student who may have had past health care experience. Whoever gets the most points is admitted into the program.

However, Scharnhorst said UH-MC is now giving credit to those who have attended a Maui high school because “people who are born and raised and live here, are usually going to work here and take care of the community.”

“People come here for a lot of reasons. Who doesn’t like Maui?” she added. “But the real goal here is to try and get people to stay in Maui.”

Overall, the admissions process is transitioning to a more holistic approach.

“You really want to pick the right people, and the good people aren’t just the ones with a 4.0 (grade point average),” she said. “If you’re a B student, you can learn this stuff no problem, we will definitely teach you. You need a lot of resilience, and the ability to deal with people, and you have to be kind of hardy, and that isn’t measured by a 4.0.”

The data provided by recent graduates on the 2019 Nursing Workforce Supply Survey do not show any evidence that Hawaii’s schools of nursing are producing more new graduate RNs than the job market can absorb.

Rather, new graduates seem to prefer working in hospitals, and their chances of working in hospitals improve if they are willing to leave the state, according to the report.

The data also show the demand for post-license nurse education is lower than the demand for pre-license education. Post-license programs are intended to support the academic advancement of nurses who are already in the workforce.

Those who choose to pursue post-license education may be interested in expanding their practice, clinical judgment or pursuing jobs that require higher levels of education.

Findings indicate that new graduate RNs who left the state after graduation are more likely to work in hospitals and less likely to work in long-term care settings than new graduate RNs who stayed in Hawaii.

This also suggests that although there are available jobs in Hawaii for graduates, those who want to work in hospitals have a better chance of doing so if they leave the state.

“Most of them, if they get a job, they will stay here,” Scharnhorst said. “If they don’t get a job, they leave. The last three years the majority of students, about 80 percent, have gotten a job on Maui.”

Enrollment demand for pre-license programs exceeded capacity with schools reporting having received a total of 1,785 fully qualified applications to pre-license programs. This was 680 more applications than they received for the 2017-18 academic year.

Around 65 percent of applicants to these programs were denied admission because of capacity constraints.

A total of 1,254 students were enrolled in Hawaii’s pre-license nurse education programs in 2018-19, which is a slight decrease (3 percent) from the year before. Of the students enrolled in pre-license programs, 64 percent were Bachelor of Science in Nursing students, 20 percent Associate Degree in Nursing students, 10 percent were Graduate Entry Program in Nursing students, and 6 percent Licensed Practical Nurse students.

While working in health care can be taxing and requires support and preparation, “it’s a great job and you make a great impact on the community,” Scharnhorst said.

“It’s a great lifelong job you can raise a family on and they pour into the economy, and they are insured, but you don’t want to have to go through all that training and have to leave your home,” she said. “Maui residents have a really good place to go and they end up with good nurses taking care of them, and they want to stay here.”

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at

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People in the news | News, Sports, Jobs




Kevin Hart

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kevin Hart says hosting a re-imagined online fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association is “a major level-up for me.”

“It’s different from anything that you’ve really seen me do. And there’s a great reason behind it,” said the comic and actor, who is leading the MDA Kevin Hart Kids Telethon online on Saturday.

It’s the first telethon in six years for the MDA, once known for its popular hours-long Labor Day broadcast hosted for decades by famed comic and actor Jerry Lewis. Lewis last hosted in 2010 and died in 2017.

It’ll be streamed on LOL Network platforms including YouTube and PlutoTV.

Charley Pride

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Trailblazing country music star Charley Pride will get a lifetime achievement award at the CMA Awards in November.

Pride, 82, will accept the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award on the CMA Awards on Nov. 11 on ABC.

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Three Vying to Replace Jack Cera in 96th District | News, Sports, Jobs




STEUBENVILLE — The three men vying for the 96th District seat in Ohio’s House of Representatives share the same goal, but it’s the way each would achieve it that sets them apart.

Democrat Richard Olivito, Libertarian Oscar Herrera and Republican Ron Ferguson are vying for the seat. State Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire, was prohibited from seeking reelection because of term limits.

The district includes all of Jefferson and Monroe counties and a portion of Belmont County. House terms are for two years.

∫ Ferguson, 34, is a small business owner who’s been active politically, though not as a candidate.

He’s worked in several capacities — most recently as director of staff training — with Americans for Prosperity, a grassroots organization he said works to spur awareness and “helps pass policies that are good for the American people and good for Ohioans.”

As director of staff training, he said he traveled across the country, visiting 36 states, working on things like improving health care for veterans and criminal justice reform — measures that enjoyed major bi-partisan support.

Legislators “exist to pass good policies,” Ferguson said. “I have a good, solid record of helping pass good policies — the same policies I’ve worked on passing are the same policies I would have voted for if I were in office. Those are the same kinds of policies you can expect me to be behind if I’m elected — that’s the only reason I worked for passage of them, because I believed in them. I believe they will make this valley a better place.”

Ferguson said if he’s elected, “When it’s important to just stand up for principles and be solid in your foundations, I’m going to fight for what is right.”

He said job creation and health care are weighing heavily on the electorate in 2020.

While lawmakers don’t create jobs, they do shape policies that can spur economic growth. Ferguson said one of the most important things they can do is streamline bureaucratic red tape.

He also insists too many industries around the state are “being subsidized and propped up” by the citizens of the 96th District.

Ferguson, a Jefferson County native and 2008 Ohio State graduate, lives in Wintersville.

∫ Herrera, 24, sees “a general dissatisfaction” with the Republican and Democratic parties.

“People aren’t satisfied with the direction those parties are headed,” Herrera said. “As a Libertarian, I’m in neither party but I can represent the best part of the other two parties — from Republicans, that would be their fiscal response and from Democrats, the social awareness aspects of their policies. Doing so, I’m able to reach out to voters across all spectrums.”

As a Libertarian candidate, Herrera has “no Republican base and no Democratic base I can lean on for support.” The key, he said, is to “find people willing to listen to what I have to say and convince them to vote.”

“There were only 20,000 people who voted for state representative out of 80,000 eligible voters in the district,” he pointed out. “Quite a number of them didn’t vote, and if you talk to those 60,000 voters I think you’ll find they really aren’t happy with how Ohio politics is going.”

Herrera said the 96th District needs policies that encourage entrepreneurs and organizations to invest in the Ohio Valley. He said he’d like to see tech companies, even green energy and farming.

Herrera said his biggest concern is public apathy.

“People just keep voting for the same type of people in office,” he said. “We seem so tied down into our ‘tribes’ — Republican or Democrat — and there’s no conversation between the two.

“We need to be united for a better tomorrow. In our small towns, people have more in common — a strong sense of community and helping one another. We may not have the biggest city in Ohio, but we have a strong sense of community and helping one another and we should be working together, not against each other, for the common good. It’s kind of a naive idealism, but I’d rather work toward that than settle for what we have.”

Born and raised in San Diego, Herrera moved to Jefferson County about seven years ago and resides in Wintersville.

∫ Olivito, 61, has been consulting on oil and gas issues for the past eight years. He practiced law for 17 years before that with a background in labor law, plus had a three-year stint in the Ohio Department of Labor as in-house counsel for the wage and hour divisions.

“I have the knowledge and an understanding of government,” he said. “I have the experience, plain and simple, of dealing with the state Legislature. I didn’t just lobby for laws, I literally wrote three laws, (including) the state of Ohio’s first minimum wage law in 1988.”

He also wrote the proposal for Ohio’s teen curfew, “and put it before the labor committee and testified about the need. It took building coalitions to get it enacted.”

He said his work on minimum wage and prevailing wages “brought us in contact with small to large corporations. It’s a real education to understand not just labor laws, but the importance of labor laws and prevailing wages.”

He concedes his legal status is currently not in good standing, but he said he’s working on getting it reinstated. He said the disciplinary action stemmed from a bankruptcy case more than a decade ago when a clerk noticed his client had failed to sign in one of five places where a signature is required and suggested he sign in the client’s place, so he did, pointing out the document was passed by the bankruptcy judge.

Olivito said the biggest challenge facing the 96th District is jobs.

He said the COVID pandemic has been a major concern across the district, pointing out public health policies and front-line workers have done a good job.

Small businesses are reeling, however, and he said the state needs to make it easier for workers to claim their unemployment due to COVID.

Olivito graduated with honors from Oral Roberts University in 1981, majoring in history and international relations, then enrolled at Ohio Northern University Law School, earning his law degree in 1984.

He lives in Steubenville.

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