SoWal searches for after school care solution

Discussion in 'Local Government and Groups' started by SoWalSally, Aug 7, 2006.

  1. SoWalSally

    SoWalSally Beach Fanatic

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    By Joyce Owen

    The crisis is over for now, but on Monday morning Butler Elementary School parents that depend on the SPICE program for after school care wondered what they would do.
    On July 28, just a week before school opened, parents began receiving calls from SPICE director Debbie Moon. They learned the program had been cut and 75 children would not have a spot in the program. With the closure of the Boys and Girls Club earlier this year, South Walton parents had few options. The club located across from Butler on County Road 30A provided the only other local option for after school care.
    Parents were soon calling the school, the district office, board members and even county officials hoping that someone would provide a solution.
    On Monday, the district announced that two portables would be moved to Butler in time for opening day.
    Principal Tammy Smith said the SPICE program would continue at Butler, but like other schools in South Walton, there was little room for additional expansion. Though 100 fewer students have registered at Butler this fall, due to the current state-mandated class size reduction guidelines, about the same number of classrooms are needed as last year.
    Any new students registering for SPICE will be put on a waiting list, she said.
    Smith was pleased to learn that on Aug. 2 the Boys and Girls Club of the Emerald Coast announced a temporary site for the club would open by September.
    ?It was a blow when they closed down,? she said.
    SPICE director Moon took in as many of the displaced children as possible, but that put more pressure on the school?s already strained resources, Smith said.
    BGCEC Chief Professional Officer Bear Henley said at the club?s annual breakfast meeting Wednesday, the permitting process for the temporary facility in South Walton was nearing completion. The permanent building will be constructed behind the Coastal Branch Library in the Government and Education Complex off Highway 331.
    ?We are revisiting our plans to fit on the new property,? Henley said.
    In a telephone interview Wednesday morning, school board member Darrell Barnhill said the SPICE program and the Boys and Girls Club are both needed to provide childcare in South Walton. Freeport and DeFuniak Springs don?t have these problems, he said, but they have other childcare options.
    ?The question is can we continue? Even with Boys and Girls Club and Spice, with the growth we see in South Walton, is that going to be enough?
    ?There?s a finite number of children that we can manage in after-school programs,? Barnhill said. ?Some time this year, there will be another call to parents that we?ve reached the limit.?
     
  2. SoWalSally

    SoWalSally Beach Fanatic

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    Walton Sun Editorial

    It really does take a whole village to raise our children

    When several parents found out the Spice afterschool program had been reduced and they no longer had a babysitter for their child, panic began to set in. While the issue at Butler was resolved by the addition of portable buildings and (we assume) more money, it doesn?t really address the problems that gave rise to it. The first issue is that parents have come to expect the school district to care for their children from about age 4 until they graduate. That is not the job of the school system; it is the job of the parents. The job of the school district is to provide our children an education. It is up to us, the parents, to teach our children manners, religion, morals, good citizenship, respect for themselves and others, and all the other things that make them well rounded individuals. It is not the job of the education system to teach our children how to be good human beings or to be babysitters and nannies. Now, having said that, there is a crisis in South Walton regarding childcare. Beyond the Spice program, the Boys? and Girls? Club and area churches, there are no other options. The handful of private childcare options have waiting lists for children not yet born.
    This is a problem for more than just parents.
    Parents who cannot find childcare cannot work. In a market where already there are not enough workers to fill available jobs, this can further reduce the number of available employees.
    It is time for county and business leaders to come together and get creative in helping to solve this problem.
    Perhaps there could be a parents? cooperative put into one of the area schools. Each parent volunteers x amount of hours a week (or pays x amount of dollars) so that the facility is always staffed by parents as well as trained childcare workers.
    Perhaps parents could organize their own day care center and run it like so many homeowner organizations do. In neighborhoods where there are community buildings, childcare could be set up by and for the residents of that community and adjoining neighborhoods.
    Parents could take turns overseeing small groups of children before and after school (think of it as ?childpooling? much along the lines of ?carpooling? ? everyone takes a turn).
    Individuals seeking to open a private daycare center could instead, create a non-profit organization with salary stipulations for themselves. The organization would be non-profit in that it would provide a needed community service and not make money for expansion or personal wealth, but the person actually in charge of the organization would be properly compensated for his or her responsibilities. This would allow the school district to make school facilities available since they can only do so for a nonprofit organization.
    For years, we have blurred the lines between school and parental responsibilities but there are definite boundaries for each. That is not to say that the two cannot work hand-in-hand to provide a more nurturing and stable environment for all children.
    In an area where so many of the residents are transplanted from other parts of the country and have no family support system, it is imperative that we as a community come together to provide opportunities to build a network of support. We must reach out to one another and be willing to compromise and even sacrifice to ensure our children are being properly cared for. Happy kids equals happy parents which equals happy workers.
    To abdicate this responsibility or ignore it, is to issue an invitation to gangs, thugs and sexual predators to shepherd our children into their care instead.
     
  3. ShallowsNole

    ShallowsNole Beach Fanatic

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    Amen...

    I am glad the school district moved in more portables for the SPICE program. However, sad too as SPICE only got space in the main school building at Butler two years ago. And while it is better than no space at all, the idea of kids being in portable buildings after the school administrators lock the main building and leave frightens me.

    My son attended SPICE at Butler for six years, in a portable, and had a close call with a forest fire AND a tornado. :eek:
     
  4. Indigo Jill

    Indigo Jill Beach Fanatic

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    This article made me crazy ... why did the author preface the discussion of the core issue (lack of available childcare/afterschool activities for parents and their children) with this nonsense about parents using the school system as a "surrogate" parent? I know it was an OP-ED but they should have, IMO, validated their position with their personal experience - otherwise it can be construed as patronizing. Does the author have children? If they do, did they have the luxury of being a stay-at-home parent or did they have to (or just want to?) rely on afterschool care themselves? Tell me what justification you have for your position is my point.

    Anyhow, my two boys have been at S.P.I.C.E for the last 5 years and the majority of people that S.P.I.C.E and the Boys and Girl Club are working parents but some use it because there aren't many "traditional" neighborhoods around where kids can ride around with the neighborhood crew. I don't know any parent that uses these services as a surrogate parent...not one.
     
  5. ShallowsNole

    ShallowsNole Beach Fanatic

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    Jill, I agree - I found the first part of the editorial very offending. Unfortunately, the proposed solutions were not much better - for example, taking turns watching the neighborhood kids. If you work full-time M-F, that's not feasible either.

    I'm just real touchy about SPICE being tampered with.
     

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