This article was written by Kelly McCarel, Vice President of Education and Content, North American Title Insurance Company
School is in session, which means for many states, counties, school districts, and individual schools, there are unprecedented considerations—logistically, mentally, and physically—for working parents with children engaged in remote learning. According to a survey by Care.com of 1,000 working parents, 73 percent said they may have to make major changes at work if their schools and daycares are not fully open. Forty-four percent indicated they would need to amend their schedule, 21 percent said they would look for a different job, and 15 percent said they may leave the workforce entirely.
The summer months proved difficult for parents juggling child care while meeting the demands of everyday work. Parents are now responsible for ensuring their school-aged children click on Zoom links, enter Google Classroom, or be attentive during virtual school. Parents are also responsible for guiding their children through classroom studies outside the live sessions.
For title professionals juggling parenting responsibilities, the challenge is meeting customer and consumer expectations to get real estate transactions closed on time, while also managing their children’s virtual school day. This results in an impossible situation of being in two places at once.
An innovative solution to eliminate stress for working parents
Understanding the difficulties presented with online schooling, and to avoid any undesirable impact on affected employees and the business, New Jersey-based CoreTitle LLC took the summer months to implement a solution.
“What if we figured out a way to create classrooms inside of our offices so that our teams do not have the worry and burden of what they will do if their kids are forced to stay home?”
The idea was posed during a leadership meeting, where CEO David Dannheim and COO Ann Brennan decided the answer was clear for their multi-state agency. On August 19, they opened CoreTitle’s offices to their employees’ children, providing them with an in-person, classroom-based learning environment.
This solution allows parents to focus on work during business hours while the company pays for tutors (chosen by the parents) to assist their children with online learning. The company-funded tutors guide the children through the school day and assist them with homework.
“We’ve all been dealt a raw hand here, especially younger kids. It’s very challenging schooling these kids,” Dannheim said. “We have a company that’s 80 percent female, and we have a lot of single mothers. We want to do whatever we can to support them, and the least we could do is to make a space where they feel comfortable.”
Turning a title office into a classroom
The company converted offices into adequate classroom space that complied with CDC guidelines. Children of the same family are kept together in a designated room to mitigate exposure to others, adhering to social distancing standards. Just like employees, the children are screened with temperature checks daily and frequent handwashing is encouraged.
Desks were ordered for the rooms, blinds were installed to eliminate distractions, and rules were posted for the children, emphasizing good conduct and best practices while at their parents’ place of work.
With offices in Florida, New Jersey, and Michigan, Dannheim said he was able to make similar classroom offerings in each location as needed. “We started in Florida last Wednesday (August 19), and we have three kids there. We’ve got eight at our Michigan operation. We’re fortunate to have offices where we’re able to expand and convert,” he said.
In Michigan, CoreTitle took three offices and divided them between the three families that opted into the remote learning offering. Each family gets their own room, and two teachers have been hired to float between the rooms between 9 am and 5 pm. In the Florida office, a teacher’s aid is with the children from 1 pm to 5 pm.
While implementing the onsite, remote-learning plan, the CoreTitle team followed specific legal parameters. These parameters noted that the company could not choose the tutors, teach the children, or weigh in on curriculum.
“We’re certainly not providing education to our team member’s children. There is some liability there. What we’ve done is basically supplement it back through our employees so that they oversee their children’s education, and we’re just supporting that direction,” he noted.
Dannheim said that including the parents throughout the conversion process was helpful. This ensured that the space and environment were set up in the best manner possible so that children remain engaged and parents could work without worry. The new in-office classrooms have so far proven to be a win-win.
“We have a baseline that we need to uphold. We have a service offering that we need to uphold. We want to keep these kids engaged and learning and not falling behind. We’ll do whatever we can to help that,” he said.