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Parents Weigh Costly Option as Students Return to School Part-Time

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DES MOINES, Iowa — The ever-changing scenarios for how students will return to learn this Fall are leaving many parents feeling like there is a no-win solution and it’s costing Iowa families.

Six-year-old Lincoln Schaffer is excited to start first grade but not without hesitation.

“The other day he was like, ‘mom do I have to go straight into first-grade math? I didn’t even finish kindergarten math?’ I said no buddy they will have a plan,” laughs Lincoln’s mom, Sarah. She admits she’s still trying to figure out a plan for Lincoln as he returns to school part-time in the Des Moines Public School District as both she and her husband work full-time.

Sarah made a post on Facebook asking for nanny and tutor for hire recommendations. It’s a risk she’s willing to take, inviting a stranger into her home during a pandemic, but also a risk financially. She feels like she has no other option.

“It will definitely be an adjustment for us,” she says. “This isn’t something that was in the budget this year because we figured he’d be in school and now that’s probably not going happen.”

In the Schaffer family’s case, they are looking at hiring help for 15 hours a week. The average rate for in-home help in Central Iowa ranges between $18 to $22 an hour. Weekly, hiring a nanny could cost families between $270 and $330.

Since the start of the pandemic, there has been an increase in the number of nannies putting their names into the College Nannies and Tutors database. The West Des Moines based agency says it has seen plenty of families interested in hiring but haven’t committed just yet.

“The challenge is if school is only open two days a week, moms are going to potentially need three days of coverage which is a needle in a haystack,” says franchise owner of College Nannies and Tutors, Brian Tingleff. “What you’re looking for are strong candidates who are wanting and accepting part-time work.”

Experts say it is easier to find full-time help but the marketplace is in flux as the number of once unemployed but qualified candidates find work in their fields or return to school, leaving families like the Schaffers wondering what to do next as they question the longevity of being back in the classroom.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of if schools close down if there is a breakout. I just wonder how long it’s going to be before that happens. So then we’d go to five days a week of needing someone to help us out.”

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