The days of stay-at-home moms who await the arrival of children once school’s out, or pick them up, may not be gone for some families, but economic pressures and working parents have changed that Ozzie-and-Harriet image forever.
So the Wake County school board’s plan to convert nine traditional-calendar elementary schools to a year-round schedule is something that may be a good idea but will have significant consequences the system must address.
Converting the schools, which have high percentages of students receiving subsidized lunch plans, to year-round would likely help the performance of many students. Long summer breaks, particularly when working parents don’t have a lot of time to engage their children in academic pursuits, tend to have students forgetting some of what they learned in the previous year. Year-round schools, with shorter breaks, help those students stand their ground on what they’ve learned.
But the year-round schedule can cause problems for working parents who need child care and who may currently be having their older kids, on traditional calendars, oversee younger brothers and sisters after they get home from school. If families are on multiple schedules, that is going to go out the window.
Parents then are left with child-care options that are expensive. While there is a number of after-school programs for children at traditional calendar schools, there are fewer for those on year-round schedules. And in the case of these nine schools, there would be many parents who simply couldn’t afford to pay the fare, perhaps $160 a week, for their kids to go to child-care programs. They’d perhaps have to look at moving their children to traditional calendar schools.
Clearly, the county needs to help these parents with its own programs (that would have to be expanded) or by reaching out to the YMCAs and the Boys and Girls Clubs to come up with more offerings. It’s true, of course, that these organizations have long provided valuable after-school programs that help children from all economic backgrounds. No one would say they don’t do their part.
But for the parents of children in these nine schools, a crisis could be looming, and the county should ensure that these families do not suffer a severe economic burden. In addition to looking at civic clubs, the school system is looking at the possibility that some schools might offer child care during those breaks in year-round calendars. That seems a viable option.
Parents of kids in year-round schools want the best for their children, and they aren’t going to reject the year-round conversion out of hand if it helps their families and helps learning. But they shouldn’t face a burden that families with children in traditional calendar schools don’t face. The system’s leaders have a sound plan, it appears, for expanding year-round schools. Now they’ll need a sound plan to deal with its consequences.