It’s been a long haul for parents and their kids. And, of course, it’s been a difficult time for teachers and their young charges. The Covid crisis seems to never end—days dragging into weeks, weeks into months, and, yes, months into years. What to do to keep those kiddos occupied?

To be sure, the pandemic has been frightening for all. But some see a silver lining. For them, Covid has also presented unique opportunities to spend more quality time with kids and to embark on adventures that probably wouldn’t have been possible in “normal” times.

Debra Depew understands the frustrations. She’s the Family Support Specialist for the group, Oregon Family Support Network. With classrooms closed for extended periods, schools and families with school-aged kids suddenly had to find other ways to connect. That often included Zoom.

“The schools didn’t start out with great Zoom skills,” Depew says. “Neither did the students. They basically were handed laptops and iPads, and told here you go.”

Of course, that didn’t always work out.

“Can you imagine a kindergartner trying to get a Zoom link?” Depew asks. “All of the sudden the parent had to kind of become the teacher at home out of necessity.”

Depew, who lives in Eugene and has two grandkids in elementary school, including one with special needs, still sees a bright side. The pandemic has certainly changed daily routines, she says, and not always in a bad way. One of those ways is by taking away the daily shuttling service that gobbled up time before Covid.

“Sometimes it’s easier for parents and students to do Zoom meetings rather than getting in the car and driving all the way to school,” Depew says.

Having kids at home for so much of the time, when they used to be in school or daycare, is truly a challenge, parents say. But Kyle Sanchez, who is director of a Portland child-care center, agrees that there have indeed been upsides.

He says that the parents of many of the children enrolled at the center have grown closer over the course of the pandemic, albeit often in a virtual way.

“I think they’ve been partnering with other families via emails and texts,” Sanchez says. “They’re sharing their stories and just building that system of support in a way that they probably wouldn’t have done. They’ve had time to connect in that way.”

You can even find positive signs in the often-contentious mask debate. The question of where, and even whether, to wear one has sewed deep divisions between those in favor of the practice and those who believe just as strongly that it’s time to move on, mask-free.

Kristi Dilli, president of Oregon’s PTA, has heard from both camps. She’s talked to parents and teachers who are adamant about the need to wear masks, and from those who believe just as strongly that masking shouldn’t be mandatory.

What could possibly be a positive aspect of such a stark difference of opinion? Learning to tolerate those with differing beliefs, on both sides of the debate. She’s seen it happen throughout the pandemic, and she finds it heartening.

“I think the bright side of the situation is the opportunity for developing personal choice,” says Dilli, who has two grown children. “Overall, I think we’ve been really successful, in accommodating people who choose to mask and those who don’t.”

Earlier last month, the Oregon Department of Education released new guidelines for dealing with the Covid threat. Those guidelines removed mandatory mask requirements for schools and kids riding school buses, although officials strongly recommend that parents and kids continue to do so.

Sanchez says that Covid has required staff to spend more time and more attention carefully sanitizing and cleaning the facility. They also trimmed their opening times by half an hour in the mornings and evenings.

But he says that the families he serves are once again finding time to do the things they love to do, and appreciating those occasions even more. And it has become easier, in recent weeks, to communicate directly with those families. The center once again permits parents to accompany their kids inside the daycare at drop-off and pick-up times, a daily ritual that was not permitted at the height of the pandemic.

“As we’re getting into this endemic stage, I think families are feeling more inclined to take trips, to go out in public, go to restaurants and just get out and do stuff,” he says. “Everyone has been spending time only at home. That’s been the reality for the past two years. But things seem to be getting better.”