Guest columnists Nykole Roche and others: Urges Northampton schools to offer equal child care services

Published: 7/18/2021 7:00:33 PM

Let’s do a quick comparison. According to the Department of Early and Secondary Education, Leeds Elementary School has the second-lowest percentage of students of color, compared to Bridge Street, where Black, Indigenious and people of color students represent 43% of our community, and Jackson Street School, where they represent 36.3%.

Non-native English speakers and English learners are a combined 28% of the Bridge Street population and 20.3% of the Jackson Street population, but just 12% of Leeds students. High-needs and low-income students are 57.1% and 44.2%, respectively, of the Bridge Street student body, far larger percentages than at Leeds (42%; 29.7%). Ryan Road has more economically disadvantaged students than Leeds. And a disproportionate number of children with disabilities are Bridge Street students.

While all Northampton schools are vibrant and filled with wonderful students and teachers, they are not all the same. It stands to reason that more caregivers at Bridge Street are hourly wage workers who lack scheduling flexibility and must manage the new, earlier dismissal time with fewer resources. Sure, there are some vouchers, but those aren’t available to all families who could use them.

Yet the district provides only one after-school program, staffed by city employees and providing flexible scheduling where caregivers pay for the hours they use, and that program is at Leeds school. For families in the other three schools, the after-school program is run by a private contractor and families have strict scheduling options and pay a flat rate no matter how few hours of care they access.

Why should lower-income families, families of color, families with children with disabilities, and families learning English bear a much more costly child care burden than families at Leeds? All Northampton families deserve the same access to the affordable, flexible child care offered by the district at Leeds, and it is the responsibility of the School Committee and Superintendent John Provost to ensure child care equity in our city.

I urge my fellow parents and caregivers to attend the Aug. 12 School Committee meeting via Zoom and speak up for equity in our schools.

In addition to Nykole Roche, this letter was signed by Bridge Street School parents Catherine Savini, Kelsey Flynn, April Cannon and Hayley Spizz, and Jackson Street School parents Connelly Stokes-Buckles and Alice Rich Lewis.
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