Learn. Together. Kodiak
May 13, 2020
When I talk to families about the adjustments they’ve had to make during the pandemic, many say “having the kids at home all day” is one of the biggest. With their kids no longer in school, parents are now having to deal with managing online meetings, class lessons and homework, coordinating lunches and snacks and honestly, just dealing with kids in their face all day long. This can be particularly challenging for working parents, who are now doing their job from home.
Lindsey Gibbs is the secretary for Peterson Elementary School. Her husband, Bret works for the Coast Guard at the Electronic Support Detachment. They have four children, each neatly aged two years apart from the next. Her youngest is in kindergarten, her oldest is a sixth grader. When the schools shut down, Gibbs was forced to work from home while her husband continued to work at his office, though on an abbreviated timetable. It was a bit of a shock for her to not only figure out how to make the transition for herself, but also for four kids all on different schedules. “Normally, you just send them to school and the teacher manages the schedule. Everything just kind of happens. Now I have to have a hand in everything.” This includes making sure each child is on the computer and ready for meetings with their teachers each day, helping with assignments and making sure they are understood and getting finished homework back to teachers. Gibbs said her sixth grader is pretty self-motivated and does a good job of taking care of her own work, but her three younger kids need almost constant supervision and assistance. “That is a job in and of itself. I’m surviving on phone alarms! I have probably 15 phone alarms to keep them on schedule. And I still miss stuff.” She told me that even seemingly small things like preparing lunch each day and finding ways to keep her kids motivated takes a lot of energy. And this is all while still finding time to do her own job.
As one of Peterson’s school secretaries, Gibbs is responsible for being the contact person for parents and students with questions and concerns. She sends out regular emails with school updates, creates the weekly school newsletter and also helps manage the school’s Facebook page. She said, “I’m trying to share a lot of information with parents, so they feel like they know what’s going on and are in the loop. We are trying to maintain our Peterson community even though we are all separated.” She is also busy getting students ready for summer programs and re-enrollment for next fall. She tries to keep regular work hours, but it is almost impossible while juggling her kids’ schedules as well. Gibbs told me that, while it can be exhausting to keep up with everything going on in her house, she is fortunate to have her husband working close to home. Many Coast Guard families have a spouse who is deployed for months at a time which leaves all the pressure of homeschooling on the other parent. With Gibbs’ husband working a reduced schedule, he is able to spend more time at home and take some of the load off of her. “I’m really grateful he is here to step in.”
Gibbs said with everyone constantly at home, it is amazing how quickly the house can get messy and the refrigerator can get empty. “You don’t think about how often four kids want to snack until they are in the house 24 hours a day.” She told me she is utilizing the School District’s free lunch and breakfast program and it has made a huge difference in her life, freeing up time in her day as well as reducing the financial burden of added meals. “It’s provided, it’s there. I don’t have to think about it. And I don’t have to spend more of our budget on food.” She said Kodiak is lucky to have such a generous program and her family really appreciates the effort the School District puts in to helping families in need. They also appreciate the variety in the meals day to day. “My kids love it. They are super excited. It’s a fun surprise every day.”
With so much going on in the house each day, Gibbs said it can be hard to find time for herself. She takes pleasure in the few moments she gets by reading books, playing games on her phone or scrolling her Instagram feed. She told me it is important for her to carve out time in the day to get a little separation from work and the school demands of four young kids. She is also adamant about keeping a firm bedtime schedule. “I adhere to bedtime. For my boys especially. 8 o’clock, it’s bedtime. I have to. They have to go to bed so I can stop thinking about stuff.”
Now that the weather is getting warmer, her kids are able to get out of the house a little more, which helps break up the day. Throwing a frisbee, riding bikes or just hanging out in the yard gets the kids some much needed fresh air and a change of scenery from being in front of the computer all day. The nicer weather also allows the family to get out of the neighborhood and enjoy some of their favorite pastimes. She said the family loves to take drives, go for hikes or do a little fishing. She was particularly excited about an upcoming camping trip and the opportunity for some camp cooking. “Obviously you have to cook hotdogs over a fire. That is the best part.”
Gibbs said her family is trying to take in as much of Kodiak as they can right now. As if she didn’t have enough on her plate already, her family will also be packing up and moving in June. The Coast Guard has reassigned her husband to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Due to COVID-19, there was some uncertainty as to whether they would actually be able to leave in June. At one point, there was speculation that they could be delayed by several months or even as much as a year. But now it looks as though they are back on schedule. They have ferry reservations and a fairly solid confirmation from the Coast Guard that the move is a go.
Gibbs told me she is sad to have to leave Kodiak. “We wanted to stay. We tried to but we don’t get to pick always. I love my job. I like this neighborhood. I like the life we have here. So, I’m really sad.” She told me that originally she didn’t want to come to Kodiak when the family was relocated from South Carolina four years ago. But, after a short time, she fell in love with the island. “I’ve really loved it here. I love the small community feel. My kids feel safe. It has been such a fun adventure.”
She is also sad to be leaving her coworkers and the students at Peterson. She had been a volunteer at the school for several years before she took the secretary job last fall. “I love it there. It felt like a perfect fit. One of my main jobs was working in the lunchroom so I saw almost every single kid every single day. They’re so sweet. I’m just really going to miss them.”
Gibbs said she is hoping that by the time they settle into their new home, schools will be able to reopen and life can get back to normal. For herself and for her family. In the meantime, she has got a lot of work to do.
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