Tuesday, January 19, 2016

On the Possible Closure of 19 Before/After Childcare Classrooms

Update: the BAR has been amended to a vote for a "preliminary approval of potential list" of 19 childcare classrooms that would be converted to "K-5" homerooms (meaning the Board is only giving tentative approval.)  Huzzah!

end of update

I suggest you write to the Board because the BAR for this item on the Board's agenda for Wednesday's Board meeting has NO list, not an even preliminary one.  Their address is
spsdirectors@seattleschools.org.

My own e-mail to them fleshes out my concerns:

Like most district-watchers, I am well-aware of the capacity issues in the district.  I note the BAR on the Board agenda for tomorrow night that will address some of those issues, including conversion of "child care" classrooms.  But I have one BIG issue with this and that is - where is the list?  Even a preliminary list?  Are you truly going to vote for, what is in essence, is a blank okay for this?  For example, would you take the space from a Title One school where loss of on-site child care could be a disaster for some parents?

I heard the Superintendent and Dr. Herndon talk about this at the last Executive Committee meeting and I understand that knowing exactly where they will need the space is tough to discern.  But two things.

1) I'm pretty sure staff has some idea where they need the space and they should tell you AND parents.
2) I'm pretty sure that - in the end - a couple, if not several, of those spaces will end up in the hands of the City's Pre-K program.  You'll be told, "Oh, we ran those numbers and didn't need all 19 so the NEXT use for that space in our space pecking order is pre-k."  Because when Dr. Herdon was directly asked about this, he said he "was not aware and didn't know" if there were any pre-k plans.

What? Facilities isn't working with Enrollment AND Early Learning on what kids get put where? 

As well, the cost in the BAR for those classrooms is about $1.6M for 19 rooms.  That comes out to about $88K a classroom.  That seems pretty high for rooms that are already built to serve K-5 kids.  Unless you needed more money to convert them to pre-K use.

You can either take staff's word on this, both that they need all 19 spaces (without naming any) AND that they don't know will end up as pre-Ks, but I wish you wouldn't.  I wish that you would strike this part of the BAR until you see some locations on paper and ask Dr. Herdon to make sure that these programs are not being closed for Pre-Ks.

50 comments:

Liza SfT said...

Thanks, Melissa! The number 19 is way, way too specific for them to claim they don't know what schools the rooms are in, or what they plan to use the rooms for. I just don't buy it.

Greenwoody said...

The City's pre-k program has had trouble finding classroom spaces.

SPS has some classroom spaces but they're currently occupied by the before/after childcare programs.

If only there were some way for the City to get a hold of those classrooms. Maybe by getting SPS to kick out the before/after childcare providers by saying they need the space and then giving those classrooms to the City.

That is the simplest and most obvious explanation for what is going on here. It should be rejected.

Anonymous said...

Agreed Greenwoody,

Before and after school on-site childcare - often provided by the Boys and Girls clubs - was integral to our families' survival.

SPS Parent

Ann said...

If your family might be affected by these child care closures, I'd like to interview you by phone today before 2 pm for my story for KUOW Public Radio.

Thanks!

Ann Dornfeld
adornfeld@kuow.org
206-221-7082

Joseph Rockne said...

How about an amendment that any of these classrooms that are closed cannot be used for pre-k space? Priority should be given to before/after school care.

Anonymous said...

Would these pre-k programs offer before or after school care for school aged kids? For the pre-k kids? Or is it only 6 hours of preschool?

Signed,
Confused

City's PrekProgram said...

Tim Burgess was instrumental in passing the city's prek program. Burgess posts this in his blog:

" As a voluntary program for both parents and providers, the Seattle Preschool Program does not divert funding away from existing programs for childcare or preschool. Nor does it require any space from the Seattle School District."

The city has multiple contracts with Community Day School. For some reason, they have changed the name of their schools to "Launch".

Anonymous said...

This is a list of the AFTERSCHOOL PROGRAMS IN SEATTLE PUBLIC SCHOOLS - dated 9/1/2014 - might be possible to figure out the 19 from it?

Afterschool programs

reader47

NW Mom said...

I agree this is a set-up and the outcome is known. I thought the Board's vote on prioritization was weird, too. It seemed to me that the vote was setting us up for something bad in the future. Now, SPS can say, well, the Board voted to prioritize pre-school over before/after care.

SPS ignoring FACMAC's recommendations is going to haunt us to the tune of $125million dollars and no large parcels of land left to develop forever. I'm specifically referring to the Wilson Pacific site (only since that's what I know - I am sure the south-end got screwed even more somehow). Ignoring the recommendation to turn HIMS into a mega-elementary and build a high school was inexplicable. With all the development in the north-end, that was a costly and devastating decision that can't be reversed now.

Lynn said...

Providing after school care programs with storage space and the use of the gym or cafeteria after school is reasonable. The district's responsibility is to provide K-12 classroom space and special education preschool services. We can't set aside space solely for child care if it means our kids are in overcrowded classrooms or we have to build more space somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

Lynn perhaps you do not spend time in schools after school. In most buildings I have been in the gyms and cafeterias are full with school activities beyond child care. Libraries too where they still exist. That is why dedicated space has been necessary and to throw these young kids into 'find another solution' when there is likely to be none because rents are soaring in Amazonia and neither the city nor district is apparently able to put together comprehensive programs for taking care of the 'whole' kid will be putting students into harm's way at worst and into latchkey kids at best. Will this keep kids safer or help them to be better students? No it's going to get worse. It's a false tradeoff- more classrooms on the back of no childcare solutions. Most followers of this blog understand what happens when kids do not have the means to have safety and supplementation outside of the school building.

The well off families will find a solution. The vast majority will not. You know- the ones we're all pulling for in trying to close the opportunity gap? The childcare operations at our schools already work on a shoestring. They beg for money to pay for their underpaid staff. They won't be able to lease space near many of these schools. Good-bye to tutoring. Good-bye to healthy snacks. Good-bye to personal safety. Good bye. Because our district as always didn't start working on capacity solutions when the public begged it to a decade ago.

DistrictWatcher

Melissa Westbrook said...

Confused, it would probably be difficult to have a before/after and pre-k share the space (especially the City pre-K at 6 hours.)

Lynn, your suggestion would be fine except that as DistrictWatcher says, those cafeterias and gyms already have after-school uses.

I did point out to the point that while loss of childcare would hurt all families, it would especially affect those at Title One schools.

Of course, the Mayor did tell me in December that the reason the pre-ks in SPS were underenrolled (two of them and they continue to be underenrolled but got their numbers up) was "bad location." I didn't get to ask him what is a "good location" but I suspect they desire some northend spaces.

Anonymous said...

I bet they desire northend space. Everybody desires northend space. Nobody up here wants what the mayor is selling. Either you want cheap, very part time preschool, for social benefits for your child(who you stay home with or have a nanny for), or you need full time coverage so you can work a full time job. 6 hours of spendy, questionable quality preschool- nobody wants that.

I spend time in schools after school. Afterschool enrichment activities can be held in classrooms, especially as they require fewer materials to be stored there. Often teachers don't like it, but some do, typically you don't need even a majority of the classrooms.

I think I agree, generally, that the district has to prioritize class size(lowering it certainly helps those students DistrictWatcher mentions) over dedicated space for private childcare programs. They can go in the cafeteria(as they do in many also crowded neighboring districts), and then enrichment classes can be the ones to "figure something out." I am, however, greatly concerned that what is going on is they are trying to find pre-k space, not actually lower class size, so of course I end up agreeing with most of you that this is a suspicious move.

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

When Tim Burgess isn't answering inquiries about the tunnel he can start searching for space to lease. In Tim's world, everything is a foregone conclusion. There's no turning back, so he'd better get er' done.

Westside

mirmac1 said...

Joseph Rockne

I do not agree. I assert that first priority would be for fully inclusive, high quality Developmental PreK classroom for students with disabilities, particularly once the district (and later the city) are cited for civil rights violations.

Anonymous said...

Childcare licenses require certain things like dedicated bathroom, access to kitchens, etc. Can licensed childcare nonprofits operate of classrooms? Doubt it but I'm not in the industry. Should be easy to find out. Seems important to understand.

EdVoter

Cougar Mom said...

I just received notice that the before/after school program at Coe Elementary is on the list. This had been intimated as a possibility in preliminary notifications to parents and a portion of the space was taken for use at calendar year end. No additional information on timeline, likelihood of full closure happening, etc. was available at that point. I think in our case the Boys and Girls Club shared all they could/they knew at that point with us.

I find it ironic that the (fellow) parents that will be most affected by these closures are likely going to have great difficulty getting out of work to make the 4:15 meeting tomorrow. And I hope this does not get turned into McCleary versus working parents. We are all in this together.

mirmac1 said...

'Of course, the Mayor did tell me in December that the reason the pre-ks in SPS were underenrolled (two of them and they continue to be underenrolled but got their numbers up) was "bad location."' How ironic because Old Van Asselt was plenty good enough - without a play structure, office support, nutritional services, adequate safety planning, no library or nurse - for 4 Dev PreK programs. Of course now that the City PreK is there (starting with 6, then getting 13 once they starting enrolling 3 yr olds) there is nursing support, lunch, office staff, administrator etc etc....

Anonymous said...

There's a pretty decent Paige Cornwell story about this on the Seattle Times site.

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/education/seattle-schools-before-and-aftercare-may-be-displaced-for-classroom-space/

Its important, I think, to note, that some of these providers have been in place literally forever. Two that I attended when I was a kid in Queen Anne, KidsCo (in its original location) before school, and the Coe Boys and Girls Club (summers) were instrumental in allowing my parents to balance their work and family responsibilities. Being able to drop me off at KidsCo at John Hay at 7:30AM so my folks could be at work by 8:30 meant they were able to be home earlier, and we could have dinner together.

The Seattle Times picture inside the KidsCo space at John Hay nearly made my heart stop. I haven't been in that room for well over twenty years, but other than a little new paint, it was instantly recognizable to me.

The needs of parents for before/after care has not changed. Many of these programs, as noted by MW and others, provide structured, quality tutoring help. Who watches these kids after school where both parents must work and how do the kids get there?

northwesterner

LizaSfT said...

great KUOW piece today about employment and poverty. These families will be hit hard by childcare changes: http://kuow.org/post/employment-high-so-poverty

Anonymous said...

My child attends before/after school care 5 days/wk at Creative Kids at Viewlands. I heard about this on Friday & perhaps I misunderstood, but I thought I was told that Viewlands Elementary was specifically being targeted for elimination of on-site before & after school care. If that's so, it seems like the district, must know which schools comprise the 19 schools? Viewlands is a title 1 school.

On-site before & after school care is very important to my family, with both parents working full-time at jobs with inflexible schedules. Having my kid remain at school has a lot of important benefits. There is opportunity to participate in before & after school enrichment activities, that our childcare program gets him to & picks him up from. These activities always start later & end earlier than we are able to get off work. My child does not have to be bussed from an off-site program to school & back to the childcare, spending additional time in Seattle traffic. Being able to do drop off & pick up at the school, makes us feel more connected to the school.

Tee

TechyMom said...

Using the lunch room works ok. McGilvra does this, with a tiny, run-down lunch room and picky parents. Kids spend a lot of time on the playground. The gym is also available once after-school classes and clubs are over. Those are usually only 1 hour, so with the new bell times, gyms should be available 3-6. There are kids playing board games, doing home work and doing crafts at tables and on rugs floor mats. A dedicated space would be nicer, but the cafeteria option really isn't that bad.

Lynn said...

DistrictWatcher,

The YMCA program at our elementary school charges $570 a month for before and after school care, early release and half days. Maybe I'm missing something - but the children I know who use it aren't experiencing an achievement gap.

If child care is a priority for a school, they'll have to reduce the space available for other after school programs. It's not that I don't have empathy for affected families, I realize this is a big deal. I just don't believe providing this service is within the district's mission.

Anonymous said...

Lynn -- Our school also has a $570 YMCA program, but I wouldn't assume that all the families are wealthy. I assume some are taking advantage of the financial assistance offered for low-income families (pp. 10-11):

http://ykids.seattleymca.org/files/images/content/2015-2016%20SACC%20Child%20Care%20Registration%20Packet.West%20Seattle.pdf

But you may be at a less diverse school than we are.

--JvA

mirmac1 said...

Do we provide smaller class sizes as the law requires? Or do we provide convenient, affordable childcare? I say the district is damned depending on who you talk to. The district must comply with laws that govern education. Period.

Anonymous said...

If onsite childcare is not within the district's mission then a serious re-thinking of the assignment plan is necessary. For example, two working parents need their tender-aged kids in school NEAR THEIR WORK not near their home.

-SPS parent

Mom of 3 said...

Mirmac,

What do you say to SPS replacing before/after care with the City's Pre-K program? I'm not talking about SPED pre-k or inclusive pre-k, but the City's pre-k program? Also, I'd like to know how you can separate education from before/after care when our school day is 6 hours? Do you believe a single, working parent with, say, 3 kids is going to be able to find a way to get his/her kids to from possibly 3 schools with 3 different start times? How do you think those kids' education won't suffer? This will disproportionately impact the most vulnerable (non-SPED) kids.

To me, this is an integral part of k-5 (at least) education. Many kids only get homework help at their after school program. Many kids only get meals/snacks at the before/after program. I am frankly shocked at how many people don't see how interconnected the before/after programs are with the elementary experience.

I will take side bets for anyone willing that many of these rooms aren't going to k-3, but to the city for pre-k.

Queen Anne Parent said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
mirmac1 said...

What do I say? HELL no.

BTW, the BAR has been edited to specify K-5 homerooms.

TechyMom said...

Before and after care IS really important. But, it works ok without a dedicated classroom.

Anonymous said...

Why can't the space be used for after school care since it's not during school hours? When I pick my son up at four there are maybe a handful of classroom teachers using their rooms. It seems insane to bus kids to who knows where when an entire huge school is sitting there unused and largely empty. I understand maybe forcing the after school care to have their admin offices off site .....
Puzzled

Lynn said...

Who would put the teacher's classroom supplies, books, files etc away every night and safeguard the equipment? Teachers at our school lock their classroom doors when they take kids anywhere else in the building. Who would set it up again every morning? Where would after school kids go on conference days or when a classroom teacher has work to do after school?

lowell parent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Right now the enrichment programs use classrooms for Spanish, Legos, coding ... How is boys and girls club or kids co different ?
Puzzled

lowell parent said...

Good god lynn,
Why are you so against after school care. I get it, you don't need it or are wealthy enough for it not to impact you. For the thousands of parents who would be impacted, this will be devastating.

Jet City mom said...

Something that increases disproportionality is reducing access to affordable child care.

My husband worked swing shift when my children were young and I was attempting to finish my education so I could get a decent job.
However we could not afford enough child care and I was forced to quit my work study job tutoring at Olympic View and my studies.

Think of all the single parents who have it even harder than I did.
They may be forced to put their child in a risky situation, just because they are trying to provide for their family.

lowell parent said...

Good god lynn,
Why are you so against after school care. I get it, you don't need it or are wealthy enough for it not to impact you. For the thousands of parents who would be impacted, this will be devastating.

Lynn said...

lowell parent,

How are you estimating the number of parents impacted? 19 classrooms at 30 students per clasroom (that the number served in after care at our school) is 570 students.

To answer your question, I'm not against after school care. I am against maintaining overcrowded primary classrooms to accomodate after school care programs. All children would benefit academically from smaller class sizes. I am against spending levy dollars to build more classrooms to accomodate after school care programs. I'd rather see the money spent on up to date curriculum and aides who can oversee recess, allowing children more time outside.

You know what's really going to affect parents? Bell time changes will have thousands of elementary school students out of school at around 2:00 every day next year. (Do the current after school programs have room for every affected student?) In a couple of years, schools will have one late start or early release every week. That's going to cause problems for everyone.

I do have empathy for parents who are worried about this. I am just surprised to see the outrage. This is an extra that the district does not have to provide. We all know that our students are not getting some of the basics (recess, time to eat, current textbooks.)

Anonymous said...

I still don't understand why after school enrichment programs can use classroom space but boys and girls club can't. This makes no sense.
Puzzled

Anonymous said...

Let's all get together and try to find some community space that can house these after school care programs.... Places with like an outside play area, a place like a cafeteria to make snack.... A place that's empty and set up for kids.... Hmmmm. It's so frustrating.
P

Anonymous said...

What's next?! When do we find out if we are one of the unlucky schools that loses childcare? I hate to think of needing to pay double, triple non-refundable deposits just to get on waitlists. If there are even any waitlists to get on. Who else do we contact besides school board, superintendent, city council, mayor? I am really curious to hear how many of these 19 schools are title 1 schools.

Tee

Anonymous said...

Lynn said, "In a couple of years, schools will have one late start or early release every week. That's going to cause problems for everyone."

Where has this been discussed, or is it just speculation?

-curious

Anonymous said...

@puzzled - I think that can work in some cases/schools however, there are some issues that can't be mitigated in this manner. There are childcare licensing contraints that require things like dedicated/accessible restrooms nearby and kitchen access for snack prep. Some teachers also report issues with materials/resources being misused in these classrooms as well as having heat turned off outside of school hours in many of the buildings. As stated, this may be a viable solution in some cases but likely not all.

I do believe that, as Lynn stated, that there may be more issues next year when the bell times are earlier for many of the elementary schools. It seems logical that more families will need to access this care, though it may shift to more after-school than both before/after. Actually, now that I think about it. Will they still offer before school care for the elementary schools starting at 7:55am since that care typically is offered from 7am on?

Franklin Parent

Anonymous said...

I feel like if they can't allow boys and girls club kids in due to licensing problems then they shouldn't be allowed to have any after school enrichment programs in classrooms. Maybe if we kick all them out as well we can get all parents on board to fight this ridiculous self imposed problem.
P

Anonymous said...

I think that before/after school care is more important in a 3-tier bell time system than it would otherwise. And removing the programs during the same year that they are changing the bell times will just light a fire under the push for 2-tiers. What are parents going to do with all those elementary school students that will now be finishing at 2:20pm?

Wally Mom

Lynn said...

curious,

This was an issue during SEA contract negotiations. Their contract says that effective 2017-18 20 minutes of instructional time will be added to the student day. No time will be added to the staff day, but additional collaborative and/or common planning time will be incorporated into their work day. The district and SEA will begin meeting May 31st of this year to bargain over implementation of these schedule changes. (See page 199 of the contract.)

As I recall, during the negotiations last fall the district's preference was to replace teacher planning time lost to the longer instructional day with a consolidated two hour block each week (a late start or early release) in which staff meetings, professional development, etc would take place.

My main concern is that there was no community involvement in this decision. We do have a shorter elementary instructional day than other districts in the area, but we have much longer days for our primary students than many other countries do. I don't believe that our current six hour day with minimal recess time is developmentally appropriate for children who are just five, six, seven or eight years old.

High school students are going to get a 20 minute longer day too. Beginning with the class of 2021 (freshman in 2017-18), students must have 24 credits (rather than the current 20) to graduate. How is that going to change the high school schedule? Are we going to lose some of the benefits of the later start? The district had a task force studying this issue which was to have a series of meetings beginning last March and resulting in recommendations for implementation of changes to the high school schedule by February 28th. Unfortunately, the task force's staff facilitator/leader has left the district and they can't locate minutes for any meetings after May 26th. I don't know if the task force continues to meet.

Lynn said...

Wally Mom,

The first tier elementary schools will begin at 7:55 and end at 2:05 next year.

Mom of 3 said...

Lynn,

I am taking a big guess, but it sounds like you are a stay-at-home mom. The bell times really won't change any working parents' need fore before after care. No matter what tier my kids are in, I'd need before or after care if not both. That was true before the bell time change and it will be true after the bell time change. Why? Because our school day is 6 hours with many early release days and other days off.

I actually think before/after care is more important for our most vulnerable families than many of the issues you raise. In many areas, there is no option other than the programs at the schools. We certainly can't get into the local boys and girls club and the other options are also full and very expensive.

I also agree that before/after care is served just fine in the cafeteria. That's where it is at my kids' school and it is just fine.

Lynn said...

Mom of 3,

You don't think there are some parents picking up at 3:00 this year who won't be able to pick up by 2:00 next year?

I am not a stay-at-home mom. I have not yet figured out how I can manage a 2:00 pickup next year and still get my work done. I know child care won't be available to me at our elementary school - the program capacity is very low.

Ms. A said...

My 3-year old daughter is starting preschool next week because she needs special education/speech and language services. It's a preschool actually recommended by the school district because it is located in a Seattle public school building at Gatewood Elementary. The school district told me that even though they are required to provide special ed services to children age 3+, they wouldn't provide my child services unless she was located at a Seattle public school building.

Guess what - they also provide before- and after-care. And, this week I learned that they are on the list of 19 programs to be closed. So, my child can't receive these services at all? Or, until she goes to kindergarten? Or, only if she goes to an preschool run by the city far from where I live? This is ridiculous. And, it doesn't only affect my child - there are 170 kids in this program - both preschool and school-age children.

There is still not a list - but you can pick them out of blog comments. Our preschool program provided a copy of a letter from another program slated for closing. It has been in its location for 28 years and just spent a $250k grant on facility renovations. The school district knew about the renovations, but didn't tell the program about the closure until the renovations were over. http://nwcenterkids.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Form_Letter_For_Parents_V1.pdf