HOUSTON, Ohio — The nest at the Sluss household is no longer empty, thanks to state shutdowns and quick thinking.
Dave and Naomi Sluss’ daughter and her husband both work for parole and probation in Texas and were mandated to continue to work despite the ongoing pandemic. The state of Texas mandated shutdowns of schools, dine-in eating and gatherings of groups of more than 10 on March 19 and shutdowns of daycares on March 24. With four children ranging in age from 3 to 11 years old and no one close to watch them while they worked, Suzanne and Tony Petrovich had to act fast.
“We started talking about it, about a week before we did it,” Naomi said. “We just kept waiting day, by day, by day, listening to Gov. (Mike) DeWine’s updates to make sure the state wasn’t going to close, and we could get out and get back in time.”
Naomi and Dave drove to Memphis, Tennessee, on March 28, where they met up with their family and took their four grandchildren Zoey, 11, Kylie, 9, Audrianna, 5, and Acelynn, 3, with them back to Houston, Ohio. In addition to their grandchildren joining their household, Naomi and Dave’s two college-aged sons, Andrew and Caleb, are currently at home due to the shutdowns. Because Dave is self-employed, he is trying to do business from home with the shut-downs. Naomi teaches at Shelby Hills Pre-School and has virtual classes and assignments to attend to, and three of her four granddaughters have online school.
“The first week was awful, because their school didn’t have anything online. I’d have to go to my husband’s office, print it off, complete the work, take it back, scan it, and email it. The last two weeks have been easier because they’ve made (it) all downloadable,” Naomi said. “The two older girls can pretty much do everything on their own, they’re pretty good at it.”
Part of the challenge with doing schoolwork remotely involved teaching her granddaughters how to save files and email them. The first few times, they lost all their work because the files didn’t save correctly. After about a month, Naomi says they’ve finally started to get the hang of everything and fall into a routine. They’ll get up in the morning, get dressed, clean their rooms, and have breakfast. Some mornings Naomi will have Zoom meetings, so Zoey, Kylie and Audrianna will have to wait until the afternoon to work on their schoolwork.
“Usually, we try to get it done in the morning,” Naomi said. “They’re so responsible, and so good.”
Another challenge is living in the country and trying to maintain a solid internet connection so that everyone can get their work done.
“We pay for two internets, and the poor girls will be working on a lesson, and lose it. I will be halfway through a Zoom meeting and lose it. Our internet is terrible,” Naomi said. “That’s probably our biggest, biggest, biggest struggle.”
Naomi and Dave try to get the girls out of the house as much as they’re able to, going on walks for fresh air. Usually they’ll travel to Piqua and find trails to walk on, because they find them not to be too crowded. This past weekend, the family took their bicycles down to Forest Hills in Piqua and road around the cemetery.
DeWine announced in his daily press conference Monday that schools would be closed for the remainder of the academic year and that students and teachers would continue to work virtually. Texas had planned to reopen schools on May 4, but Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order on April 17 closing schools for the remainder of the academic year. As long as childcare facilities in Texas remain closed, the Sluss’ grandchildren will be staying with them.
“Even when we go back to the new normal, I’m still nervous. I’m still nervous to let my grandkids go back to Texas, and throw them in a daycare, or school,” Naomi said. “I’m just nervous that we could go back into this, and it’ll start back up again.”
Despite the uncertainties and the struggles, there are many upsides to the situation that make everything worth it.
“I’m getting quality time I wouldn’t get otherwise, because I’d either have to go to Texas to visit them, or the two older ones, their dads are from Sidney, so when they’re here, they’re with their dads, so I don’t get to see them. So at least I get quality time with them,” Naomi said.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4825.