Davian Gonzales, left, and Luis Morales take a break from their remote classes Tuesday at Sierra Middle School and Berrendo Middle School in a conference room turned classroom at The Injury and Disability Law Center, 614 N. Main St., where their parents work. (Juno Ogle Photo)
Children sitting in front of a computer is not a normal sight in a law office, but attorneys Jeremy and Josh Worley realized these are not normal times. The brothers, seeking to prevent stress for their working parent employees, set up a classroom at their business, The Injury and Disability Law Center, 614 N. Main St.
“One of the things we have always tried to encourage for all of us is we feel like our families are our priorities. This felt like an opportunity for us to really step up and say, ‘You have our blessing to make your kids a priority,’” he said.
“But what we didn’t want them to have to do is face this dilemma of ‘Do I work or do I educate my kids?’” he said.
The idea to turn an overflow conference and storage area into a place where staff could bring their children grew as the state appeared to be moving to start school with remote learning, Jeremy Worley said. The law firm has five employees, three of them with children.
“Every one of our staff members here works full time. And also everyone’s married and has a spouse that works full time, so we just knew there was this stress coming in the homes of our staff. We just wanted to do what we could to help out,” he said.
Support Local Journalism
Subscribe to the Roswell Daily Record today.
The Worleys and their staff took a half-day before school started to clean out the overflow room and move in desks for the children.
Since school began in Roswell last week, four to six students a day from second grade to high school have been in the classroom space, alongside their parents or even in a private office when needed.
It hasn’t been perfect all the time, but the brothers say it’s been a success.
“There is no roadmap for what we’ve been trying to do. We figure it out daily. Some days it works well, other days, we struggle. But that’s just what life is right now,” Jeremy said.
Without having to worry about their children getting their classwork done or needing help getting online, the employees have kept their productivity up, Josh said.
Even the employees without children have stepped up, answering phones of parents if they’re helping their children or making sure the kids get logged in to their virtual classes if their parent is busy, Jeremy said.
Through it all, the staff continues to get their own work done.
“They’ve got a little bit of distraction with some of this, but at the same time, I feel like they’re probably more relaxed and more ready to do their job, as well,” Josh said.
“If we ever felt like our clients or business was suffering as a result, we would make changes. But what we found is there’s a way to blend the two and do it in a way that works,” he said.
“It’s not a long-term solution. This is a way of ‘How do we fill in the gap for now?’” he said.
Tuesday morning, Davian Gonzales, a seventh grader at Sierra Middle School, and Luis Morales, an eighth grader at Berrendo Middle School, worked in the makeshift classroom. During a break from their classes, they said the remote learning was difficult to adjust to but they were getting along OK.
Davian’s mother, Clara Calderon, worked at her desk nearby.
“It means the world to me,” she said of being able to have her son nearby.
Yaneli Banuelas, a ninth grader at Roswell High School, sat next to her mother, Mari, using a laptop for her classwork. Both said being able to work closely together was working well. Yaneli isn’t in the office every day, though.
“Occasionally, she’ll come to the office and she’ll do her thing in the conference room. I work here and check on her, or she comes here and then goes back. So far, so good,” Mari said with a laugh.
Jeremy’s own daughters — Meg, a fourth grader, and Faith, a second grader — usually attend their Sidney Gutierrez School virtual classes and do their work in his office.
Meg had just logged in to Zoom on a tablet for one of her classes Tuesday morning. Their tablets’ screens mirror to a large TV on the wall so dad can monitor their work.
The firm’s main conference room has even served as the cafeteria. The firm brought in lunch for everyone from a downtown diner just for something fun on Monday.
“We had about 11 of us in here. We’ve just tried to make the very best of it,” Jeremy said.
The brothers said they realize not every business has the ability to make room for employee children as they have, but encouraged others to make it happen if they can.
“If they have the ability to make a few changes to accommodate, I would say go for it,” Josh said.
“It’s been nice to know we could do this without it becoming disruptive to our business. I would just encourage others to give it a chance because it’s been so rewarding for us here,” Jeremy said.
City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or [email protected]
To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.