IMPERIAL COUNTY — As some Imperial schools are set to reopen remotely on Monday, parents are left with the option of staying at home with their school-age children who are learning this way or leaving them alone while they go to work.
Several Imperial County officials called this issue a challenging one.
For county offices, Public Information Officer Linsey Dale said it is up to the department heads to assess their department’s needs to determine who needs to come to work and who may be able to work from home.
“Since COVID-19 has struck our community, the County of Imperial has instituted the ability for employees to telecommute whenever possible depending on the specific job and the needs of the department,” Dale wrote in an email. “It will remain a department-by-department decision based on each employee’s job duties and the resources necessary to serve the public.”
County Assessor Robert Menvielle said in his department employees can work from home, which allows them to be with their young children while they attend school remotely.
He said there is no childcare available, and dropping the children off at a grandparent’s home might not be a good idea.
When the pandemic hit in March almost all county departments allowed telecommuting, and now with school beginning, it’s becoming more crucial.
“They don’t have to worry about their kids when working from home,” Menvielle said. “You certainly don’t want to take them to the grandparents’ home.”
He added almost everyone working for the assessor’s office who have young children is already telecommuting.
In June, Menvielle and many others thought in-person classes were going to return in the fall, so an adjustment period was needed when they realized the schools were not going to reopen.
“We are working and doing our job, but we had to readjust,” he said.
Supervisor Ray Castillo said oddly enough this issue never came up in the briefings the supervisors had with the Imperial County Department of Public Health.
He said the supervisors could ask for more clarification on the matter at Tuesday’s meeting. Tuesday would be the second day of school for Imperial Unified School District students.
“It’s a complex question,” Supervisor Jesus Eduardo Escobar acknowledged. “In general, employers should remain as flexible as possible in catering to the needs of their customers as well as supporting and understanding the needs of employees.”
The complexity, he said, is that while parents need to care for their children, the employer needs to cater to clientele.
“We are going to be looking at that deeply,” Escobar said. “From a county perspective, we will discuss solutions that are for the long term (because the virus is not going away anytime soon).”
The county’s seven-day COVID-19 positive rate as of Thursday increased by 2 percentage points to 13.5 percent. The county needs to the rate drop to 8 percent to apply for an attestation.
“We have to be very flexible,” he said. “We have got to take it day by day. At the end of the day, we need to be sympathetic with working parents who have no one at home. It’s a tightrope.”
The Imperial Irrigation District has been notified as of Thursday afternoon that at least 25 employees have told the district they will be taking leave once the school year begins.
IID Public Information Officer Robert Schettler said the district continues to follow the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which allows for 12 weeks of leave through Dec. 31 of this year.
Employees can apply for leave by completing an application and follow up with their benefits representative at the district.
Employees may also use any accrued vacation and sick leave balances that are available.
“Our human resources department continues to look at options and the district will continue to work with employees on a case-by-case basis,” he said. “Some will continue to telework and others will have flexible work schedules.