Aubree Jurovcik, who’ll soon start sixth grade at Evergreen Middle School, sat outside on a summer evening chatting about Google Classroom, Zoom meetings and all the ways technology kept her learning after schools closed last spring.
Her sister, 9-year-old Leah, brought out a Chromebook at the family’s Everett home Thursday to show how she’ll tackle fourth grade at View Ridge Elementary when it starts next month. For their generation, portable computers are second-nature. And coronavirus closures have made online education a necessity.
What a difference nearly a dozen years make.
Aubree, now 11, was born Feb. 24, 2009, at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett’s Pavilion for Women and Children. Two days later, Daily Herald readers learned how her dad, Army National Guard Sgt. Josh Jurovcik, witnessed the birth of his first child from Iraq, via the internet. At the time, he was an infantryman on his second deployment with the Washington Army National Guard’s 81st Brigade Combat Team.
“It took a huge amount of effort, nothing like it would be now,” Mary Kay Jurovcik, the girls’ mom, said Thursday. She and her husband were the first new parents allowed by the Everett hospital to use an online link for a father to view a birth. “They were going to tell us no,” she said. “An IT person went to bat for us. She was really great, she and the Red Cross.”
With laptops, webcams and an internet connection, the couple “came as close as possible to experiencing Aubree’s birth together,” I wrote in a column published Feb. 26, 2009. The Jurovciks’ story was mentioned in my first-person piece that’s among “Inside the Newsroom” profiles now being published by The Daily Herald.
Meeting newborn Aubree Jean at the hospital, and talking with her dad from a base in Balad, Iraq, is one of the happier memories in my nearly four decades at the newspaper. Another Herald journalist, Ian Davis-Leonard, raised the idea of a follow-up column. Mary Kay Jurovcik, it turns out, is his cousin. She is vice president of operations at Paroba College, a beauty school in Everett.
Josh Jurovcik, 40, works for the state Department of Corrections as a community corrections supervisor. After a number of years away from the military, he’s back with the Washington Army National Guard and in Officer Candidate School. He expects to finish the officers’ program a year from now.
“I want to be a citizen soldier,” he said. After tours in Iraq in 2003-04 and in 2008-09, he was deployed earlier this year much closer to home. At Camp Murray, adjacent to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, he was part of the Guard’s effort to fight the coronavirus. Washington National Guard members have helped the state Department of Health with pandemic planning, logistics, operations and other support.
“Having Dad called up with a 9- and 11-year-old is much easier than when Aubree was 6 months old,” said Mary Kay, 41. Her husband was home, and with her in person, when Leah was born.
The Jurovciks look back on what it took for Aubree’s father to witness her birth. Dr. Philip Henderson delivered their first child. Mary Kay’s parents, Barbara and Patrick Davis of Kenmore, were with her at the hospital.
“I was taken off patrol duty,” said Josh, recalling that a “birth observing room” in a Red Cross station at the Balad base allowed fathers that opportunity. With Mary Kay in labor for more than a day, her husband said a superior told him, “If your wife doesn’t have this baby soon, you’ll be back on patrol.”
With the internet link, they said, there were concerns both in Iraq and at the Everett hospital.
In Iraq, Josh said, operational security measures didn’t allow for a soldier’s exact whereabouts to be shared. “Going from point A to B, that’s where you get attacked,” he said.
And at Providence, there were worries about Mary Kay’s privacy and the sensitive nature of medical information.
“We had not done it before. At first the response was less than enthusiastic,” Suzanne Armand, a nurse and supervisor in the Family Maternity Center at Providence in 2009, told The Herald at the time. Bev Walker, then director of services to the armed forces with the American Red Cross in Snohomish County, said in 2009 it was more common for the agency to send notification after a baby was born.
Fast-forward more than a decade. Technology is so ubiquitous that kids quite easily join teachers and classmates online during a different sort of battle — the fight against a pandemic.
The digital link that let Sgt. Jurovcik see his firstborn enter the world was still new enough in 2009 that the couple’s story made it to TV news. We’re now getting used to the idea of 5-year-olds tapping away on keyboards at home — even as we hope for traditional school days. One of my grandsons is about to start kindergarten.
Yet some things don’t change much.
Aubree said their mom helps Leah with her schoolwork — but when her own math gets a bit too tricky, “I wait until Dad gets home.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.