"http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd"> urbanMamas

Back to School: When you don't have before-/after-care

Operating hours at our public schools, depending on the program and grade, can range from 9:30 to 11:30 AM to a more average schedule of 8AM to 3PM.  For the full-time working parent, especially in single parent households, these schedules would obviously require both before- and after-care.  We've previously listed out the before- and after- daycare providers at PPS schools.  PPS Childcare website states:

The Portland Public Schools Board of Education passed a Childcare Policy in December of 1997 that provides for safe, affordable, educationally appropriate childcare for all elementary school students before and after school hours. Childcare is not only a parenting issue, or a workplace issue, but also an education issue.

We recently received an email from urbanMama Tia, who writes about her challenges with PPS aftercare:

My five-year-old son is about to start kindergarten at our neighborhood school, Peninsula Elementary.  My four-year-old daughter will remain in day care near my office in Hillsboro.  Since I am a divorced mom with a hefty commute, before- and after-school care has been a major concern.  I thought my son had a reserved spot in the on-site day care program at Peninsula, so was pretty well dumbfounded a few weeks ago to learn (mostly by accident) that the program has been terminated.  PPS has made no arrangements to replace it.  This affects nearly all the other schools in the Kenton/St Johns area, because Clarendon/Portsmouth, James John, Ockley Green, and Rosa Parks had all bused children to Peninsula for the child care program.  Sitton apparently has an entirely different provider, and a new provider is launching an on-site program at Chief Joseph -- but there are no plans to transport children from the other Kenton/St Johns schools to those locations.

... Nancy Hauth, the childcare coordinator for PPS, has been sympathetic but unable to remedy this gaping North Portland hole in the before- and after-school program.  When I last contacted her I realized that my list of grievances with PPS is already alarmingly long.

I'm worried that there may be other affected parents in the neighborhood who don't even know yet that there's a problem.  My political hackles are up, too, over the fact that PPS' failure here is localized to a big swath of North Portland.  Can you help me get the word out, and maybe spawn some activism on this issue?  I am a total newbie at dealing with the school district and, if nothing else, would love to identify PPS-veteran mentors.

Have you been in a situation left without before- and after-care at your school?  Have you been affected by this change in the North Portland PPS area?  How do we address this need and lack?

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Hello,
I'm a reporter for The Oregonian and blogger for the paper's parenting blog, Omamas. I've been looking into this query this morning. I would like to talk with the North Portland mom who posed this question. 503-276-7184. Thanks, Noelle Crombie, Oregonian staff writer

A bit of an update... Nancy Hauth wrote after I first contacted uMamas to let me know that arrangements have now been made to transport Peninsula students to Beach elementary for aftercare, if needed. It is not clear that this option is available to families at other affected schools.

Welcome to the world of inequities for schools in the Jefferson/Roosevelt clusters.
Yet just another example....

My stomach has been churning over a similar issue this week. My children's PPS school does have before and after school care, but it's first come first served. I tried to apply at the end of the school year, but in order to submit our application for the program, we had to pay the first month's tuition plus about $100 in fees per child. Over $500 is really hard for us to come up with while we're also paying for school tuition (Pre-K & K) and summer child care, so we were not able to apply at the end of last school year. Now there's a waiting list, so I don't know what I'm going to be doing when school starts next week. It's so frustrating that these programs are not required to meet the demand from the schools they are supposed to work with.

This seems to be happening in several areas of pdx. We live in SE and did not get into the before/after care at our new elementary school because it's full. We applied last May and paid at that time. We are both working parents with a child going into kindergarten, and it's pretty stressful right now thinking about what we are going to do. We can't just quit our jobs. Hopefully PPS will consider doing something about this asap, as we have been told that our school does not have any other options for care being offered.

A quick clarification regarding child care at Peninsula: The YMCA will be transporting students from Peninsula to Beach Elementary. To register, contact the Y at 503-327-0007.

If you have questions or concerns, please call or email: 503-916-3230 or nhauth@pps.k12.or.us
Nancy Hauth, PPS

Slightly unrelated, but there is a lot of confusion about school calendars this year and the PPS and school specific websites are not all up to date.

eg: First day of school? Depends on what grade your kid is in.
Late start Wednesdays for teacher planning?

Seriously, who is running the show at PPS - it's so disorganized and the communication sucks.

Perhaps a thread on this would be helpful?

This issue and the general deficiency of quality childcare in North Portland is exactly why we moved out of our beloved NoPo this Spring. Don't get me wrong, there are some great programs out there, but space is so limited and my family couldn't afford to wait for PPS and the area to catch up with the childcare need. No full day preschool programs, few quality infant care options. It's really sad. I ended up commuting my child MILES out of the way for childcare and preschool. We just couldn't do that for grade school, so we felt forced to leave. That's just what worked for us, but I can imagine we are not alone.

@fembot -- You are so right about lousy communication. Calendar issues have been another one of my PPS headaches, though secondary to the aftercare issue. When we pre-enrolled my son at Peninsula last spring, one of the pluses was its year-round calendar. (This was a minus for one of my neighbors, who enrolled her kindergartner at Beach instead, even though Peninsula is our neighborhood school.) Sometime over the summer, however, Peninsula switched to a trimester schedule without any notice to incoming kindergarten families. In fact, I'm pretty sure that I still haven't been directly informed about the change. I first learned about it by digging pretty deep into PPS websites; inaccurate info bragging about Peninsula's year-round calendar remained on some of the district's web pages until a few days ago. The welcome letter I finally received on August 27 was also the first time I learned that kindergartners would be starting on September 11, NOT September 8 as indicated on the district's "final" kindergarten start date list. This adds further wrinkles to our day care mess. As icing on the cake, I was not informed until August 29 that I am still expected to bring my son in for an "assessment" meeting on September 8, smack in the middle of my workday. Egad.

Same thing over at Vernon...pre-k was changed to full day, and no official notice went out to the families, that I heard about at least. I have been struggling to decide it full day is going to work for my family. The lack of clear communication is awful. And the school's website? very outdated and offers no current information whatsoever. I agree, something needs to be done at the district level about these issues.

Frustrating - we put our application and check to hold our spot in May for before/after school care to find out we are on the waitlist and one week before school starts, they aren't sure if they're going to open up another section of daycare.
I also wish schools would all start at 7:55 instead of 8:35. For working parents, its just an added cost to have to pay for before school care in addition to after school care.
Abernethy is another school that went from year round to trimester with no clear communication to parents.

My daughter was in kindergarten last year and in aftercare at Peninsula (provided by Peninsula Children's Center, a separate agency). The new principal at Peninsula decided that they didn't have room for the before/aftercare program this year (after 30+ years in the school) and kicked them out. After complaints from parents, PPS told him to make room but the offer he made was ridiculous (using a regular classroom for part of the morning then moving the auditorium, etc) so the provider moved over to the existing program at Boise-Eliot and started charging everyone for fulltime before and after care (650+/month) because they don't have room for part-time kids.

The story from the principals at Peninsula and Clarendon-Portsmouth (my daughter's school) is that they have SUN programs instead of childcare because it is cheaper and more inclusive than childcare. Working parents cannot use SUN as childcare! It is only available part of each term and not at all during holidays and breaks, it is not appropriate for most kindergartners, and parents cannot visit and check things out before making a commitment -- just sign 'em up and hope for the best. SUN is not an answer for aftercare and doesn't address before care at all.

PPS isn't coming anywhere close to their commitment to provide "safe, affordable, educationally appropriate childcare for all elementary school students before and after school hours." And if someone at PPS thinks about responding that kids can be bussed to schools with care, think about this: I am the mom you dealt with last year about her 5yr-old being on a school bus with a untrained driver who was lost for an over hour on multiple days and didn't know enough to even use her radio. Putting kids on a bus for 45 minutes (how long they scheduled the ride to take) to transport them to a school a mile away is neither safe nor educationally appropriate. I will only send my kids to another school if the childcare providers do the transport.

Luckily for me, I have a SAHM friend who is willing to pick up my kid and watch her for the one day a week we need care now that we have shuffled our work schedules around. The tears and sleepless nights that I have had over the childcare issue are gone, for now. Good luck to the rest of you!

Dear PPS,
I used to be one of your biggest supporters (in a hopeful, nostalgic sense). In fact, I'm a native Portlander and a product of PPS. Your disorganization, poor communication and "not my fault" attitude of all encounters led us to move our children to private schools this year. It's threads like this that make me realize how fortunate we are to be able to (barely) make ends meet while paying for our private school education. (Much more than our mortgage). By the way, when you lost our children, you lost my 8 hours/week volunteer time and all the donations of money, supplies, time and support we used to give you. Now it's all going to our new school. I'm happy to pay for the quality, organized and reliable education for my children. It's the least they deserve. They also get a healthy lunch there, imagine that! Portland deserves better. PPS, you should be ashamed of yourself. Again, I ask, how can we, the parents and the community, change this system?
Sincerely,
A Former Parent

My daughter is at Sabin, and I thought the lack of organization just pertained to our school, had no idea it was district-wide! I also am shocked and appalled by PPS' lack of understanding that parents need to arrange childcare for when their child is not in school, and a few days or even a couple of weeks IS NOT ENOUGH TIME to set up those arrangements (at least not w/o nervous hives and dramatic spikes in blood pressure). We need an hr before-care and 30 min after-care, so are piecing things together with friends... I just hope that with several different arrangements each week no one forgets who is doing the pick-up. There has really got to be a better way for PPS to provide (or contract out) quality, consistent care in ALL schools, and to send (complete!) information home in a timely manner.

I was in the same boat last year- I found out we were accepted to the onsite daycare at school *after* school had started. Of course at that point we had figured out another option- we had to. Before/After care is a big issue and the level of care at onsite programs is an additional concern. For many folks if after care in not provided then the neighborhood school is not an option.

I'm glad (?) to hear that I'm not the only one in this boat. My child will be starting at one of the PPS charter schools this year. I've been trying to nail down the before/after school program since the end of last school year. Here it is a day before school starts and I STILL don't know if my child has a spot, when the program starts, etc. I am beyond frustrated. I have very little flexibility when it comes to my job, and have already been reprimanded for taking "unscheduled" time off due to child sickness or lack of child care.

I really hope this gets easier as the years go on...

PPS has also yet to properly inform parents of the new 2 hour late start time on the 3rd Wednesday of each month. The first late Wednesday is October 21st. Another scheduling nightmare!

Isn't there a late Wednesday opening coming up on September 16 already?

Family Child Care is an Option for You

The Child Care Improvement Project (CCIP) serves family child care providers who are committed to strengthening the quality of child care and ensuring that children receive nurturing, safe and developmentally appropriate care that helps prepare them for success in school and life. Ninety-seven percent of parents using CCIP providers report that they are extremely or very satisfied with their child care arrangement as measured by our Parent Customer Satisfaction Survey.
If you are a parent needing before/after school care or care for your infant, toddler or preschooler please contact
the CCIP program manager at (503) 524-3245 or mgoodman@nhweb.org. Please visit us at www.childcareimprovement.org

Yes! The first Late Opening is NEXT Wednesday! Classes start at 10:00.

My son is enrolled at Faubion in NE Portland, and they too have no on-site YMCA before or after-care this year, due to low interest. They will be willing to bus my son to a neighboring school, but I am not comfortable with that option. PPS does very little to help working parents, and it is beyond frustrating.

PPS Parents--Our second late opening date is tomorrow, October 21.

http://www.pps.k12.or.us/files/families/PA_2009-10_Late_Opening_Days_PK.pdf

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