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Edmonds School District: A change in child care

 

March 27, 2019

Parents and guardians in the Edmonds School District will see a new before-school and after-school program for their kids next school year: It’s called Right At School.

Not everyone is happy with the decision. For more than two decades, the Boys & Girls Club and the YMCA have provided that service. But both recently were notified their contracts with the district were not being renewed.

Families always have – and will continue to have – the option to attend Boys & Girls Club, YMCA, or any other before- and after-school program they choose. But there will no longer be on-site programs in district schools, now offered at Edmonds and Westgate elementaries.

The Right At School program is based on what it says is the belief that children learn best through play. The enrichment program uses “disguised learning” methods through experiential two-week curriculum units, such as “Icky Experiments,” “Page to Stage” and “Young Detectives.”

The service clubs were not the only ones taken by surprise by the district’s announcement. So were parents and guardians who don’t necessarily follow school board meeting agendas.

“We sincerely apologize for not reaching out to our families to hear concerns and suggestions before making this decision,” Superintendent Kris McDuffy wrote on the district’s website.

“We found out about the school district decision for Right At School in a letter without an open public process,” said Mike Neumeister, Alderwood Boys & Girls Club area director. “Currently the Boys & Girls Clubs provide child care for four school sites in the Edmonds School District, serving approximately 315 children.”

District spokeswoman Kelly Franson explained the reason for the switch.

“It is the intent of Edmonds School District to provide before- and after-school care in all of our schools, creating opportunities for families to access child care regardless of zip code,” she said.

Currently, Franson said, nine out of 22 elementary and K-8 schools in the district have been unable to offer before- and/or after-school care to families.

“Partnering with Right At School will enable us to offer on-site before- and after-school care throughout the district. Right At School offers flexible pricing options, with no waitlists. They will offer scholarships and reduced rates for families who need financial support.”

Five district schools now partner with the Boys & Girls Club and three with the YMCA. Two schools have created their own school-sponsored, fee-based before- and after-school care. Three schools offer options through the City of Mountlake Terrace’s Kids Krew.

“The YMCA and Boys & Girls Club do not have the capacity to offer before- and after-school care in all of our schools, thus creating inequities in our community,” Franson said.

“Furthermore, they often have enrollment caps, which create waitlists. The YMCA charges more per month – for five days of care per week – than the Right At School program, and the Boys & Girls Club charges less – for five days of care per week – than the Right At School Program. The YMCA and the Boys & Girls Club do not offer flexible rates or punch-card opportunities.”

Right At School, a nationwide organization based in Evanston, Illinois, already has monthly rates on its website. Prices for Edmonds, Meadowdale, Sherwood, Westgate, Maplewood K-8, Chase Lake and Seaview elementary schools are the same.

Right At School will charge $500 for before- and after-school programs five days a week (6:30-8 a.m, 2:30-6:30 p.m.) and $350 for after-school only and $275 for before-school only. There are also options for single days up to four days a week.

A check of rates for the Dale Turner Family YMCA location in Shoreline showed prices start at $585 a month.

But Neumeister said Right At School monthly child-care fees appear to be approximately $100 to $175 more per month than the Boys & Girls Club fees. The full-time fee is $350 a month.

“Given the information we have obtained so far,” Neumeister said, “it appears that for families who need financial assistance, the Boys & Girls Club offers double the percentage of scholarship assistance as Right At School, along with the Boys & Girls Club not turning families away for financial reasons.”

Franson said the district’s current child-care providers pay a rental fee to use its space, a fee that covers the cost of cleanup and utilities.

“We have made an agreement to not charge Right At School rent,” she said. “Instead, they are providing us a percentage of their revenue to cover the cost of maintenance and utilities. Any funding that is left over, if any, will be returned to families via scholarships. The Edmonds School District will not be making any profit from Right At School.”

Franson said Right At School provides extensive training to its staff, whose members will come from south Snohomish County and the area.

“They have offered to pay their staff to attend the professional development the district offers teachers throughout the year,” she said. “Additionally, they have agreed to integrate our curricula and school-based behavior expectations into their programs so children have a seamless transition from child care to the classroom.”

Neumeister said the Boys & Girls Club is working on a plan to continue to serve all families who need child care and are affected by the district’s decision to partner with Right At School.

For more information about Right At School, go to bit.ly/2V0EZqg.

 

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