Mono County Families Need Support

Mono County Families Need Support

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Patricia Robertson started this petition to Mono County Residents and Families of MUSD

January 9, 2022


Dear Mammoth Unified School District, Mono County, and Town of Mammoth Lakes Leadership,

I am writing as a parent of young children in Mono County regarding the closure of our public school district for the period January 10, 2022 - January 28, 2022. This three-week closure feels discriminatory towards local families, who already face severe disadvantages in regards to daycare, housing, cost of living, access to mental health services, and more. 

The reason this seems discriminatory is because no other group activities have been impacted. Tourists are still invited to come and recreate, dine, access healthcare, utilize the gym, go to the movies, and otherwise spread the virus in our community. And our working families are still expected to show up for work. So what does this mean for our children? Daycares have waiting lists, family members have to work, and parents cannot afford to stay home from work lest risk not being able to afford rent and mortgages. 

Did you know that on average households in Mono County maintain 1.2 - 1.4 jobs per adult? Households need to maintain multiple jobs in order to afford to live in Mono County. According to Census data, 30% of Mono County households pay more than 30% of their income on housing expenses, which is above the federally recognized standard for affordability. Many parents have exhausted vacation and sick time to stay home with quarantined household members and otherwise do not have the resources to work 40+ hours/week per person and care for school-aged children. Unlike many other industries, our tourism-based economy does not lend itself to the ability for everyone to work remotely.  

Do we bring our children to work with us, where they will be exposed to COVID anyway? Are we able to? Does this make sense? Or do our children belong in school with their teachers, trusted adults, and peers? I am curious to know, what percentage of MUSD families have parents that are able to work remotely? Considering that approximately 60% of jobs are in the Accommodations, Food Service, Retail, and Recreation industries, I assume it’s much less than that. Many workplaces are already experiencing staff shortages and this school closure will only exacerbate that.

Let’s not discount those who are able to work remotely– caring for children and working remotely is extremely difficult and not a viable solution. Remote workers are likely working on the fly, taking calls in the car, during meals, enduring Zoom meetings with their screaming kids in the background, sending emails on their phone, and catching up on hours late at night. And if before we were able to spend what limited free time enjoying our beautiful surroundings, it seems we are able to enjoy it even less now. We are suffering mentally, physically, financially, our relationships are suffering, our children’s education and social development is suffering. Where is the support?

Families in Mono County need support. It often feels as if no one is looking out for us. Homes are too expensive, rentals are impossible to find, daycare is scarce, etc. It could be perceived that Mono County and the Town of Mammoth Lakes do not want families to stay in our community. Perhaps a model that includes only second-homeowners and a transient, young workforce is preferred. As you know, many families have made that interpretation and left our community for more supportive environments. If I had to make a prediction, I would guess that the ongoing lack of support for families in Mono County will have profound impacts on the make-up of our community in the long-term. And each time a local family leaves, it becomes increasingly harder to attract another one.    

Families might feel better supported if the closure came with some form of support. Here are some ideas for consideration: 

  1. Request that the National Guard help provide school programming (fill prospective staffing shortages due to COVID), 
  2. Offer shorter, cohort-specific school weeks (M/W versus T/Th); this might allow for more staffing coverage and limit potential exposure, 
  3. Allow Husky Club to operate with small peer groups, to minimize exposure,
  4. Provide programmed activities during the closure with limited number of spaces (camps, etc.),
  5. Give discounted group ski/snowboard lessons and/or gym/trampoline passes,
  6. Program the Community or Wellness Center with activities and study halls,
  7. Coordinate outside playgroups (sledding, or Bishop City Park, etc.),
  8. Provide financial stipends to help cover the costs associated with not being able to work,
  9. Any other type of support that would allow parents to continue to work,
  10. Communicate supportive response initiatives so that all families have access. 

Unfortunately, at this moment it seems like schools are taking on the brunt of the responsibility for community spread of the virus, when we know this isn’t the case. If schools need to be closed, then careful consideration of higher risk activities should also be undertaken. In the future, I hope that you will more thoroughly research the impacts of your decisions on the lives of our local families, and consider policies that are applied equally and/or provide tangible support systems for local families and our workforce.


Mono County Residents and Families of MUSD

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