ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WXYZ) — "They just dropped this bombshell without any discussion," said Rachele Stucker, mom to a second-grader in Ann Arbor Public Schools, who is hoping district officials rethink their decision to discontinue before and after school childcare service for the 2021-2022 school year.
"I found out about it around 10 PM Wednesday and I haven't really slept since, to be honest," said Stucker who can't rely on the help of other family members. The nearest relatives live in Missouri.
The district's superintendent called discontinuing their childcare service "painful yet necessary."
Supt. Dr. Jeanice K. Swift said the number of children in their childcare program, where students remain in the gym, cafeteria, or in an outdoor area, is "not a COVID safe model."
But the parents we talked to believe the district could have found a way to make it work for the many families who rely on the paid service.
"If they're going to return them to the classroom the way they're saying, then they should be able to find a way to provide that child care so many parents are in desperate need of," said Cherie Burkheiser, who is thankful that she has an understanding and flexible employer.
Annette Sobocinski, Executive Director of the Child Care Network, said the challenges often left with parents is having to find an alternative they can afford that also offers transportation.
Sobocinski said their non-profit agency can help parents connect with child care providers that fit their family's needs.
The Child Care Network provides services in Genesee, Hillsdale, Jackson, Lenawee, Livingston, Monroe, and Washtenaw counties, and it is one of ten "Great Start to Quality" resource centers around Michigan that helps family find and pay for child care.
And here is the full statement released today from Supt. Dr. Jeanice K. Swift.
The Ann Arbor Public Schools has taken the painful yet necessary step to discontinue school-aged childcare for this upcoming 2021-22 school year. We want to share this information now so that parents have time to prepare for this change coming in Fall, 2021.
AAPS has used a large group model for childcare, with students in the cafeteria or gym, which is not a COVID safe model that will work well for children this fall. At this time, elementary students are not anticipated to be vaccinated by this fall, and other COVID-related complications, such as cases and quarantine issues present further challenges to the current school childcare model.
Although we appreciate the outreach and offer of support from volunteers and we have used volunteers in the past. School childcare is regulated and volunteers cannot take the place of the required, certificated staff; staffing such a large program has presented a challenge for several years, one that is now exacerbated by COVID.
During this upcoming year, we will work to redesign the childcare program for 2022-23 to offer a program better aligned to our equity and Rec & Ed mission.