Editorial: Bad decision by the school district
The abrupt decision by Summit School District to shutter its Summit Day Camps program at the end of this school year has been a blow to parents who depend on the program for before- and after-school care. Given the stakes, it seems odd the district didn’t do more to initiate a community discussion of the problems faced by the program in advance of the surprise announcement to close it altogether. Granted, a $7,000 shortfall this year is an item of concern, but parents at the very least deserve the opportunity to say whether they’d be willing to pay more in tuition – or help find some alternate forms of funding – before being told “too bad.”
We understand the school district’s core mission is educating children and not providing that day care before and after school. Nor do we advocate dipping into the District’s general fund to offset the cost. At the same time, the Summit Day Camps program has done a good job over the years providing this service to parents at minimal expense to the district. By pulling the rug out like this, the district will have parents scrambling to find alternatives for this summer and fall – and some have already set up tax-deferred “flex” accounts to pay for it; money that is lost if not used and which is only usable with licensed providers. Alternatives for summer day camp are numerous in the county in summer, but that’s not the case during the school year. And on-site care that doesn’t require additional transportation is the optimal situation for parents – especially in single-parent families or families where both parents work full-time jobs.
It’s also well worth noting that this kind of action can have a ripple effect the school district may not even have considered. When working parents face a child-care crunch like this, it can affect their ability to remain in the community. Or it can create situations where workers may look to employers for more flexible hours and creative scheduling as a work-around. With housing already out of reach for many locals, adding an additional day care burden is the last thing our slowly recovering economy needs.
With the turmoil in the district resulting from the sudden resignation of the superintendent and a new super not on board until July, the decision to kill the program seems ill-conceived and short-sighted, and we’d encourage the district to reconsider the decision at least for another year. Surely there’s a way to make up the shortfall if it’s only in the $7,000 range – be it through increased tuition, fundraisers or other sources. Summit County parents struggling to make ends meet don’t need these kinds of surprises, and by reaching out to the community for solutions, the district may find solutions close at hand.
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