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.
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.
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.
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.”