Guest columnist Stephanie Pouliot and others: Fix after-school fees for all elementary schools

Published: 7/18/2021 6:59:05 PM

While Superintendent John Provost and the Northampton School Committee are to be commended for making after-school care at Leeds Elementary more affordable and accessible for families (“Leeds Elementary changing before- and after-school fees,” July 9), the district must now take action to do the same at the city’s three other elementary schools.

As noted in the Gazette article, the Leeds Late Bird/EarlyBirt program run by the district is changing the fee structure from $8 per day to an hourly rate of $4, in order to “provide a much more rational after school fee” because “[u]sage varies dramatically based on estimated needs.” Provost says in the article that it didn’t make sense to charge the same flat fee for families who are using the after-school program for different amounts of time.

Translation: Leeds families will now only have to pay for the actual hours their student is in the program. That is not the case at the city’s other elementary schools where after-school care is run by an independent contractor, the YMCA, which only offers two-, three- or five-day after-school care options and charges a flat monthly fee for each. There is no hourly fee option and no proration based on actual student utilization.

Therefore, families at Jackson Street, Bridge Street and Ryan Road will not have the same “rational after-school fee” as Leeds, and will ultimately pay more for after-school care than their Leeds counterparts.

In voting to implement a late start at the high school, the School Committee imposed a significant child care burden on the school population with the highest need for after-school care: elementary school families now facing a 2:10 dismissal time.

Shockingly, the district has only sought to alleviate that burden at one of its elementary schools, and based on the “discussion” at the July 8 School Committee meeting, seemingly has no intention of doing the same at the other schools.

We urge the district to remedy this blatantly inequitable situation. Failure to act perpetuates an unjust situation for the majority of elementary school caregivers and calls into question the district’s much touted commitment to equity.

Stephanie Pouliot lives in Northampton. This letter was also signed by Mike Holland, Nykole Roche, Anne F. Broadbridge, Stacey Dakai, Dr. Laura M. Furlan, KeriAnne Gaffney, Krista Navin, Jacqueline Newman, Jonathan Newman, David Peters, Carrie Raptelis, Annie Salsich, Lori Shine, Hayley Spizz, and Patrick Wade Wofford.

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