Extended Care Questions Brought to Leadership Team

Posted by: Laura Crandall   -   Posted in: News- Feb 23, 2012 2 Comments

Recently the Leadership Team and kindergarten faculty received a letter that gave feedback and asked questions about our extended care program and school calendar. Some of the points raised were new, some have been raised before; all of them will be useful for future planning. I appreciated this family’s perspective; in particular the reasons that a staggered start to the school year can be difficult for some parents. The authors expressed a general sense of appreciation for the extended care program, as regards quality, affordability, and evening operations. I’ve written the other points raised by the letter’s authors in a question/answer format. This blog is, in part, a venue for communicating some of the questions that parents ask about our school and our answers to those questions.

Can the school offer 8am to 6pm care during school breaks?
The school tries to balance the needs of working parents with school resources. Were we to offer break care, it would be run by our current extended care staff. This means they would then be unable to participate in professional development or take a needed break. An 8 am to 6 pm camp would need a minimum of three staff members to ensure appropriate, safe coverage for students and 8 hour work days with breaks for staff. This would require a minimum enrollment of 10 students for the duration of the break care offered. BWS has offered both spring break care and summer camps in the past. The school has stopped offering break care due lack of interest/need. Should that need level increase, and should our staffing levels increase, we would consider offering break care. However, space limitations currently hamper our extended care program and those limitations are a problem with break care as well. Our spaces are ideal for school operations, but they do not lend themselves to an 8 am to 6 pm non-academic program. Ideally, the school should have two to three dedicated rooms for extended care programs. This summer we will offer a four week camp for kindergarteners, from 8am to 2pm.

Why doesn’t the school offer care for preschool students?
Despite being in a large building, we do not have enough space for a preschool extended care program. While having a full-day program for preschoolers could help attract a wider range of families, our current single-room preschool is neither big enough for a full-day program nor for a half-day program with extended care. If the school were to mix the kindergarten and preschool extended care programs, that would require using both of our kindergarten rooms for extended care in the afternoon. In years past, the kindergarten extended day program has been held in one kindergarten classroom. This makes daily classroom prep and cleaning for the kindergarten program difficult, but is for the most part manageable. To have both kindergarten rooms occupied by extended care until 6 pm is not possible. Our ability to offer extended care for preschool is largely an issue of space limitations.

Has the school considered offering before school care?
BWS has not identified a great enough need for a before school program. Again space limitations factor into this, and we have neither a dedicated space for morning care nor a suitable room for this purpose available in the morning. There are also staffing issues with before school care, which could possibly be surmounted if the need for such a program arose and the school did not have space limitations.

Can the school change kindergarten drop-off time so it aligns with the grade school start?Some years ago, the school adjusted the start time of preschool and parent and child classes to better align with kindergarten start times. At that time, both Kindergartens changed their ‘door open’ time from 8.30 to 8.15, in an effort to better align with the 8.15 grade school start times. Kindergarten students may be dropped off in either of the kindergarten classrooms at 8.15, which is the published start time of grade school. The published start time for kindergarten is 8.30.

Could the school have all classes start the year on the same day in September? Having kindergarten and preschool start the week after grade school starts makes it hard for working parents to find care.
The faculty reviewed the start and end of the school year a couple of years ago and, based on that review, the school changed the end of year schedule and eradicated a half-day in the middle of the school year. The former schedule meant that the kindergarten and preschool year ended earlier than grade school year; the school changed the schedule so that all classes end on the same day. The start of the year was reviewed as well, but the faculty were in agreement that having a Friday ‘open day’ for kindergarten and preschool was a good way to get the children acquainted with school again before diving in with both feet. With over 135 students in the grade school and 60 in early childhood, the first days of school are quite hectic. We find there are a number of benefits to having a staggered start. This does not mean that our schedule is not open to change, and this will be considered in any upcoming reviews of the calendar.

2 Responses to “Extended Care Questions Brought to Leadership Team”

  1. Carol Oliver says:

    I am concerned that you did not find some way to tactfully use these questions as a teaching opportunity for the far more important philosophical reasons to not offer before and after care for such young children in general and from a Waldorf school in particular.

    • Laura Crandall says:

      Hi Carol,
      Thanks for commenting. I did think about writing a little bit about the philosophy behind before and after school care. There are important philosophical reasons in favor of offering extended care, just as one could find reasons against it. There are some families that are shut out of a Waldorf education for a number of reasons. Just two of those reasons are financial and school schedule. Single working parents, and families with two working parents find an 8 am to 3 pm school day difficult or impossible to manage because they have child care needs. They may want to choose a Waldorf school, but can’t because the school’s schedule doesn’t accommodate their work schedule. They may want a Waldorf education AND wish to be at home with their child, but their reality is that they must work. If we were to be dogmatic about philosophy, our school wouldn’t have a kindergarten or a preschool, and we certainly wouldn’t have after school care for kindergarten students.

      What we seek in our school is greater diversity and ever-increasing inclusivity in our school community. This often means doing things a little bit differently so that the population served can be more diverse. If we had the space, funding, and demand in our school for a before school program, it is likely that we would try to have one. That is because we could serve a more diverse group of families that we can’t serve right now. That’s part of the reason I didn’t bring up pedagogical reasons against before and after school care: some families have circumstances that cannot be changed, and they might feel judged by such statements. As a school, we’d rather have kids in care in our school than not, because there is a great benefit to being here even if the kids have long days. Yes, it would be nice for children if they could be at home before and after school, but some of them just can’t because of family circumstances. What we want to do is support healthy families and recognize and accomodate our changing times and children’s changing needs as much as possible. That’s why we try to offer a healthy, home-like after school care experience for our students.