Architectural firm creates virtual learning space for employees' children

Catherine LaValley has a fulltime job in sales and another full-time job as the single mother of a 16-year-old and 11-year-old twins who just started sixth grade at a Cobb County middle school.

"Working from home means I'm tech support and the lunch lady and the tutor and then you start on dinner all while you're trying to get some time in on your own job," said the Smyrna mother.

Her son Chase is a high school junior and pretty self-sufficient during the virtual school day. Twins Ava and Ethan are doing what they can to help their mother.

"I can already make eggs and Ava can make the sausage, so we've gotten most of it down," Ethan told FOX 5’s Portia Bruner.

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Still, the twins need a little more help with virtual learning--which can be challenging when homework and mom's work fall on the same deadline.

"I'll be honest, I feel guilty when I have to tell my kids I can't talk to you right now because I'm on a call or have to work on this project and you'll have to wait until after 5 p.m., “ said LaValley.

The Smyrna mother was relieved when her boss recently announced parents can take their students to work at Office Interiors in Downtown Atlanta starting September 8. The architectural and design firm has created a socially distant space where students with masks can work in their own pods, have in-person access to a tutor and their parents if they still need them.

"I'll actually be able to work in a heads-down time to make calls, host appointments in the showroom and they'll have a supervisor available to help with tech issues or questions. It's a burden that's been lifted off my shoulders," LaValley told FOX 5's Portia Bruner. "I can't tell you how grateful I was and how valued I felt as an employee.”


Office Interiors President Bill Coons said his employees are slated to bring anywhere from 8 to 12 children to work next week. The firm has about two dozen employees, but 11,000 square feet to accommodate the new work/school environment.

"It was great that we could do it because this pandemic has made havoc with everyone's life," Coons told Bruner. "I'm sure it's going to be interesting and we're committed to making it work. We think it's going to be good for them and for us too. Work-balance is good for all of us."

While Chase plans to stay at home, the twins are looking forward to next week for several reasons.

"I think it's very exciting, getting out of the house and doing schoolwork and still being with my mom, said Ava. "It's good because the tutor is going to have more time for us since they don't have other work and I'm super excited to see my mother at work. I'm interested in business so this will be good," said Ethan.

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