As I drove home from a doctor’s appointment yesterday, I found myself behind a local school bus. When I stopped behind the school bus each time it came to a halt, I was struck by how strange it looked: windows rolled down at 40 degrees, kids sitting in every other seat, wearing masks and attempting to social distance.

Hunter Bibeau, a freshman at Spruce Mountain High School in Jay, plays League of Legends with his instructor in the school’s library and others at home during a recent after-school e-sports class. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Of course, children are resilient. Children are quick to learn and adaptive, and if adults around them set good examples of wearing masks and social distancing, dealing with COVID-19 becomes just another part of their daily routine.

But with most public schools either fully remote or operating under hybrid models, this leaves working parents of K-12 students with an undue burden. While some parents work from home, they must juggle parenting. Others have been forced to piece together adequate child care while they return to the workforce. In July, up to 20 percent of Maine’s child care centers were still closed, the Press Herald has reported, and many have never reopened.

With increasingly limited options for child care during the pandemic, the shortcomings of our child care system are being exposed. We must be able to guarantee quality child care for every Mainer, regardless of income. Children growing up in poverty should not be punished for the oppressive systems they were born into. Whether that means extending unemployment benefits or rapidly expanding publicly funded child care options, the state looks to be in for a rough winter, and we must act now to make sure no child is left behind.

Alexander Perry

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