The Iyer family of Exton had planned to board a plane for New Mexico when school let out for spring break. The Kukals of Cumberland County, N.J., had booked their first international trip. The Hoffmans of Northeast Philadelphia were headed to the Bahamas.
Then came COVID-19, closed schools, and a ban on all nonessential travel.
Most schools, now educating students remotely, are still taking the spring breaks that had been scheduled for this week and next. But families are finding that their plans are vastly different.
They are taking nature walks instead of traveling to theme parks. They’re working through vacations and in some cases not even telling kids this was supposed to be their spring break.
“It’s the opposite of the Bahamas,” said Patty Hoffman.
Angelee Rivera, a Philadelphia teacher, had planned to travel to Puerto Rico — it would have been her first time on a plane in 30 years. Rivera and her cousin wanted to visit their grandmother’s grave.
Instead, she’s quarantined at home. Rivera cares for her mother and got word this week that a nurse who visited their home had tested positive for COVID-19, so now, Rivera’s family is in seclusion at home.
So far, the family, including three school-age daughters, is healthy. But things still feel strange.
“Everyone’s schedules are all off, my kids are singing ‘Jingle Bells’ at 2 a.m.,” said Rivera, who lives in the Northeast and teaches fourth grade at nearby Farrell Elementary.
The Mocey kids — Sienna, 7, Cameron, 5, and Nathan, 4 — had been over the moon at the thought of a spring break Walt Disney World trip.
Though the coronavirus made that an impossibility, their parents decided to make the best of it. On Tuesday, when they were supposed to leave, mother Kelly dressed the trio up in Disney T-shirts, posing them on the front steps of their home in Harleysville with the new suitcases they got for Christmas.
Sienna cried a little when she realized what was happening, but has rallied, and all in the family are trying to be good sports. Kelly and Steve Mocey promised the kids a Disney day, with Disney waffles, Disney snacks, and a Disney-themed playlist.
“I still want them to experience some Disney magic,” Kelly Mocey said. The family is also planning an outdoor day to play backyard games, and a day of service, when they will clean out closets and set aside things to donate to local charities.
The Kukals, of Millville, like to take road trips on spring break. But 2020 is a year of milestones for them — a high school graduation for Alexandra and her admission to the Coast Guard Academy, 50th birthdays for parents Bobbi and Anton, plus their 20-year wedding anniversary — so they were going big, to Paris, their first European trip.
“We’re frugal, we’ve been saving, we found a great deal,” Bobbi Kukal said. “We had it all planned out, and now we don’t. We have our garden and yard work, and cutting wood.”
Lakshmi Iyer and her family, including fifth-grade twins and a kindergartner, were supposed to make a trek to New Mexico. Instead, the kids are riding bikes and having plenty of screen time while their parents work.
“If I didn’t have to work, we could go on hikes and walks,” said Iyer. “But I’m holding back on taking my time off. What if something happens to me and my husband? I don’t want to use all my time.”
With the Norristown Area School District on break, Yen Tang-Dietrich and family were bound for the Outer Banks in North Carolina until COVID-19 upended everything.
Tang-Dietrich told her fifth grader, second grader and kindergartner: Finish your Chinese school homework and forget about school until Monday. (Two out of three took her up on it. The 5-year-old is a holdout.)
“For the most part, we’re letting them run feral,” Tang-Dietrich said. “If the weather cooperates, we’ll go outside. The rest of the time is spent letting them play a zillion hours of video games.”
Kristin Misko’s family wasn’t planning to get away for spring break. But at least it would have been a break for Misko and her husband and five kids, a first grader through a high school freshman in Philadelphia district schools.
She’s eased up on the school front this week, said Misko, a former teacher who lives in Bridesburg. But mostly, it’s the same new, strange normal, with cabin fever and a lot of snacks.