Correction: In the printed version of this article, published Sept. 2, it was incorrectly reported the survey that went out to families on June 15. The survey was sent out to parents March 23. This article has been updated.
In an attempt to bring a wide variety of childcare options to Enumclaw residents for the upcoming school year, the Enumclaw School District is bringing on a new partner.
Right At School, a national company that normally offers before-and-after programs for students, will be pushing into Westwood Elementary and Southwood Elementary in order to offer kids from kindergarten to 13 years of age the potential to “go to school” with a small cohort of peers to receive educational support while distance learning with the district.
The district is bringing on Right At School after distributing a March 23 survey to families asking, in part, what childcare needs are in the community.
However, not everyone is happy with the district partnering with a business that was named one of the 5,000 fastest-growing private companies for three years running in 2018, and would have wanted the district to focus more on local providers.
WHY RIGHT AT SCHOOL?
Conversations with Right At School actually began before new Superintendent Shaun Carey came on board, though it was he who picked up the pieces to help organize a program for the fall.
“This happened due to a lot of feedback that I received from a number of different community members about needing childcare if we were not going back to our regular school programming,” Carey said in a recent interview. “That was the impetus for me reaching out to Right At School, to see where things were left in terms of a possible relationship between the district and this particular service provider.”
At the time of print, the survey results regarding how many parents felt they needed childcare during the school year were not available, the school board meeting where those results were discussed was not recorded, and the minutes of the meeting also did not contain the results.
However, a pre-COVID-19 Washington Department of Commerce report showed that half a million children in the state did not have access to licensed childcare, an issue that was likely exacerbated when the pandemic hit. Additionally, 47 percent of unemployed parents surveyed said childcare was a barrier to finding employment, and 18 percent of parents had to turn down a job or promotion because of the lack of childcare (this was especially prevalent among Blacks and Native Americans).
Carey stressed that this partnership is not a financial benefit to the district, though Right At School is paying a small facility-use fee to cover utilities.
“The benefit is not to the district,” Carey said. “The benefit is to students who would otherwise be in district schools right now, if we were not in a remote learning environment… We’re trying to respond to a call for more options, if you will, in regard to childcare for working families.”
PRICE POINT AND LOCAL PROVIDERS
There seem to a few “flashpoint” issues that ESD has received backlash on — that the district is partnering with a non-local childcare business, how expensive Right At School can be, and how restrictive their hours can be.
Full-day classes are held from 8 to 4 p.m., with half days split from 8 a.m. to noon, or noon to 4 p.m.; all programs can be attended between one to five days a week.
Half-day prices can run from $30 to $150 a week (or $120 to $600 a month), depending on how many days students will attend the program; the full-day program price ranges from $55 to $275 per week (or $220 to $1,100 per month).
The program will be available to all Enumclaw families, though ESD staff members can receive a 25 percent discount.
• The White River Children’s Academy in Enumclaw offers full-day programs (6 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.) for school-age children (4 to 12 years old) for $840 per month for five days a week (there are a couple of openings left as of Friday, Aug. 28);
• Enumclaw/Black Diamond Adventures offers half- and full-day programs for school aged children (ages 5 to 12) for up to five days a week. Half-day programs, from 7 a.m. to noon and noon to 6 p.m., range between $30 to $140 a week (or $120 to $700 per month), and full day programs range from $53 to $220 per week (or $212 to $880 per month). There are currently 25 open spots, and the business is also offering a 5 percent discount to ESD staff;
• Camp Commotion, offered by the City of Enumclaw and which offers programs for ages 4 to 14, has five-day programs for just about $125 per week (though families can register for just $20 and can be put on a payment plan for the other $105 by calling Julie Reddaway at 360-615-5620). There are only 27 total spots open per day, and the program has not yet reached capacity for coming weeks. Hours are 8 to 4:30 p.m. at J.J. Smith Elementary;
• The Country Playhouse Club declined to share their rates with the Courier-Herald, but noted that the hours for their program for ages 5 to 12 is 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. (The program is at capacity with a waitlist).
“I’ve had multiple calls where people were frustrated because the hours [for Right At School] are 8 to 4,” said Linsey Boles, who works with The Country Playhouse Club. “They work 8 to 4. There’s no way to get them there and be at work at the same time.”
Enumclaw/Black Diamond Adventures also said they’ve seen some frustration with community members stemming from the restrictive hours and high cost.
“We believe in competition, and think that more childcare options at the schools are ultimately a good thing for the community, but we don’t understand why the school district chose to bring in and promote such a large corporation, when the rest of us have capacity and are just trying to survive through the current restrictions,” said Meg Schrag, co-owner of Enumclaw/Black Diamond Adventures. “It’s extra confusing that the district is promoting this new company so heavily when they aren’t local and have the most expensive option with the most limited hours.”