Families enrolled in District 65’s School Age Child Care program can expect to pay 5% more in fees starting next school year.

The district’s Personnel, Buildings & Grounds and Finance Committee passed the cost hike at its latest meeting Monday, Jan. 23.

The fee change now heads for final approval to the full school board, which is next scheduled to meet Jan. 30.

Chute students returning to school.

The program offers child care and activities for students at every Evanston elementary school from 7 a.m. to the time school starts and from the end of the class day until 6 p.m. Families can choose to enroll their children in both sessions or just one session either every day or three days a week.

The last time the board increased the program fees – a 7% hike – was in the 2015-2016 academic year.

This year, the district administration is asking for another increase due to declining enrollment. In the last few years enrollment has gone from about 600 families to about 400 families, according to District 65 Business Manager Kathy Zalewski. The decrease, combined with the increasing cost of staffing and supplies, has resulted in deficit spending, she said.

“There’s about an $80,000 to $100,000 deficit, so that’s why we are asking for a 5% increase, and possibly another evaluation next year to see how things are going,” Zalewski said. “This is for next school year, so hopefully this will give our families some time to get ready for these price increases.”

Families with students enrolled in both the morning and afternoon sessions five-days-a week will have to contend with the greatest monthly dollar amount increase. They will see their monthly charge go from $480 to $504.

You can see the full list of monthly costs and expected increases in the spreadsheet below.

Credit: District 65

District 65 contracts with the private company Right At School to provide another child care option available for local families. About 10 years ago, the board decided to offer that additional program at the request of some of the school Parent Teacher Associations, according to Superintendent Devon Horton.

But board and committee members Joey Hailpern and Mya Wilkins both expressed a desire to bring the two options under one umbrella in the future, if possible.

“One of the things I was saying – it’s a perception I have, I don’t have data to support this – is that people wanting Right At School versus School Age Child Care programming is akin to when we had honors math classes in the middle school,” Hailpern said.

“I would bet money if we walked in, and we looked at Right At School versus School Age Child Care, we could see a racial divide between the programs.”

School Age Child Care Program Coordinator Charlotte Carter said families often choose one because they have a perception, as Hailpern described it, that the other is worse or does not offer the same experiences or opportunities.

District 65’s Joseph E. Hill Early Childhood Education Center Credit: Adina Keeling

As a result, combining the two options into one could help alleviate the sense of “competition” between the programs, Carter said. But the district’s own child care department is also grappling with understaffing and an overextended staff, she said.

Still, the communication across the two programs has improved this year because Carter has worked directly with the Evanston Right At School Manager Amber Woodson to collaborate on events and activities.

“It probably makes sense to at least understand how they complement each other, and what purposes each is solving,” Wilkins said. “I had a chance to participate in both, and I know there are some differences, but I think it does make sense to at least examine who’s going to each, as well as what purpose each one is serving.”

Duncan Agnew

Duncan Agnew covers Evanston public schools, affordable housing, City Hall and more for the RoundTable. He also writes long-form investigations, features and the morning email newsletter three times a...

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  1. It is very troubling to see school board member Hailpern admitting to use his obsession with an identity-politics ideology over actual data to analyze the situation.

    The Right at School offerings are not some privileged white-glove option where kids are showered with luxuries. In our experience their staff is over-stretched and they tend to have a lot of turnover.

    That said, the idea of forcing them out of the schools would be a serious disservice to parents.

    My kids go to Right at School and I can tell you that the main reason we use it over the District option is due to the flexibility they offer. For instance, if you only need aftercare for 2 afternoons a week, the District doesn’t offer that option. Right at School does. Many of the parents at my kids’ school work in the service industry or other jobs where schedules change weekly. Right at School can accommodate that. The District doesn’t.

    Haliperin would be disappointed to find that the ethnic difference between Right at School and the District option at our school is negligible. Parents choose one option or the other based on their family’s particular circumstances not on identity is my guess. But let’s see some actual data before we jump the gun.

    One thing that isn’t mentioned in this article is the fact that Right at School now manages the after school clubs. Before at our school it was the PTA. Who would manage after school clubs? These clubs usually entail outside vendors offering things like chess, dance, crafts, etc… What happens to these if Right at School is sacked?

    This story should be a cautionary tale. Because of the decision to fund a new school with money from the annual operational budget we will likely see more of this nickel-and-diming by the District in an effort to raise money.

    Hailpern’s hypothetical about wanting to “bet money” about the ethnic makeup of the aftercare classrooms is an illustrative metaphor. I’m not anti-gambling, but gambling is surely financially reckless. Hailpern and the board’s penchant to raise fees, overspend is also financially reckless. In their case the unfortunate victims are the kids who go to school in the district and their families.

  2. Of all the things the District spends on money on, this is one area where they are not spending enough money. My son is in Right At School at Lincoln and they just lost their best instructor because she wasn’t paid enough and had absolutely no benefits. For a district that cares a great deal about equity, it seems hypocritical that their (mostly people of color) after/pre care staff are so underpaid and don’t have benefits. Meanwhile, the District administrators running this program are making upwards of $150k with amazing state benefits.

    I think most parents would probably be okay paying more for this program if we knew the employees were better taken care of. I understand Right At School is a private contractor but the District has the ability to use their size and leverage to get guarantees for the contractors with our kids every day.