This morning when I dropped my girls off at their extended day program at the school, one of the teachers handed me a form to fill out, indicating what our needs would be for the summer. And I remembered that I really miss the arrangement my family had until last summer.
My kids attended one of several school-age childcare facilities that were run by the city. It was a short drive from our house, and it was fantastic. We dropped them off in the morning, the teachers there put them on the school bus, the school bus dropped them off back at the facility at the end of the day, and that's where we'd pick them up. They were open from 7 to 6. They took the kids on PA days, snow days, March Break, Christmas break (not Christmas or New Years, obviously), the summer. We were covered. The teachers were phenomenal - the woman who was managing it had done so for decades and knew every child by name. They loved our kids. On holidays like March Break and over the summer, special activity days were planned and given to us in a calendar so we knew when to dress them in pajamas or their favourite t-shirt or whatever.
Then last April we got notice that our facility, along with every other school-aged daycare run by the city, would be closed at the end of the summer. We were given no reason why. It was only because we parents gave a shit enough to find out and harassed the hell out of the names we were given that we were finally given an explanation. Well, a few different ones really - it was the city's decision, no it was the province's, blah blah blah. And these people were not keen on being bothered for answers. Some of the contacts we were given conveniently went on holiday when the announcement was made, and some were outright hostile to our questions and concerns.
But we finally put the pieces together. The province, having found out that full-day kindergarten is freaking expensive, cut school-age childcare funding to all municipalities to free up more money. Our city, facing the challenge of running programs without that provincial funding and based in part on pressure from the school boards who were trying to get parents to send their kids to school-run daycare (our school sent out a questionnaire trying to gauge parents' interest in it and I think most of us said, "not interested, happy sending our kids to facility X"), decided to cut all their school-aged daycare programs and let schools run it.
The kids and teachers alike at my city facility were devastated. We all put on brave faces for the summer and make sure the kids had as much fun as they could, but the last day was awful, apparently. I'm glad I didn't come that day to do pick-up. Well, the school board had us - we all signed up for the school program. And so far, it's not been awful. The teachers seem nice and attached to our kids, they've really made an effort to have fun activities for the kids like crafts, computer time, Just Dance, movies, etc. They get them outside to play a lot as well. But we do have concerns. The school building is not secure; the old facility had keycard access. I have, on occasion, seen kindergarteners out in the hall by themselves. Also, as summer approaches on the distant horizon, I am reminded that the school is not air conditioned. The care is more expensive.
The biggest pain in the ass, however, is that anything beyond basic before and after school care is an add on that you have to register for and pay for separately. We've often opted out for PA days; choosing instead to leave the girls with relatives, bring them in to work, etc. We did do March Break with the school board but it was at another nearby school and the kids were not keen on it. And now I have to make a decision about summer. It's going to be at that other school again for the whole summer. Sigh. I'm looking into city-run day camps but it's painfully complicated; first I need to find camps that are either near our house, my husband's work or on my commute downtown by bus. Next, my daughters are in two different age groups so I need to see if a given facility has day camps for 4-5 year olds as well as 6-10 year olds. And then I need to make sure they have before and after care (extra charge probably) because day camps run from 9-5 and I have to be in the office from 8:30 to 5. Lord, just signing them up for swimming lessons this week was an ordeal; figuring out summer care is going to be some PhD-level adulting. I miss my one-stop shop municipal childcare so much.