NewsGetting Back to School


Parents scramble as after-hours programs get cut from schools

Posted at 11:50 AM, Jul 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-22 14:50:32-04

Some districts across the Valley already have kids in the classroom and thousands more students are gearing up to go back in person next week.

After a year defined by remote learning and constant adjustments, some parents now say they are being blindsided by new changes.

Nicole Frenchman's son, Elijah, is starting middle school in a week. A few days ago though, the 11-year-old didn't know which one he would be attending.

"They're prepared to go to one school, and now it's another. So they're very nervous and a little worried about what's gonna happen," said Frenchman, who moved her son from Esperanza to Alta Dena.

The last-minute change came about after Nicole got a phone call from the Kyrene district earlier this month.

"They informed me last week that there's no more after-hours care because not a lot of parents signed up for that. So they're canceling that after-care program," said Frenchman. "I literally got a phone call saying they canceled it, like last week, after I already put a deposit."

A Kyrene district spokesperson told ABC15 that one elementary school shut down its before- and after-school programs, eight middle school before- and after-school programs are now condensed down to four, and 10 of the 15 preschools had a reduction in hours.

For working parents, like Nicole, the changes are a source of stress.

"The school is far so my son won't be able to walk home by himself or ride a bike," she said. "So he would kind of be stranded outside the school with no after-hours childcare."

"They're pretty much vital to the success of our community," said Katie Nash, a high school Biology teacher and President of the Chandler Unified Education Association. She says her district is being forced to audible their programs as well.

"Just due to people working remotely, being laid off from jobs and things, yes, we have had to downsize those programs pretty significantly," she said.

The Kyrene spokesperson said the changes are a result of two factors: staffing and demand.

The staffing particularly impacted the preschool programs, "which have a minimum of two staff to supervise small children," said the district spokesperson, Erin Helm.

"For example, an afterschool preschool program with only three students enrolled might close because it is not fiscally responsible to employ two staff members to watch three children," Helm continued. "Forty-one total students across the District were impact by the preschool hours adjustments."

The district provided the number of students currently impacted by the closures and reduction in hours. But parents, like Frenchman, believe those numbers are not indicative of the true effect, because they believe many parents waited to sign their kids up since they are still working from home, but will need the care again soon once they return to an office.

"The school doesn't realize parents are going to be going back in person," said Frenchman. "Things are coming back to normal. Not everyone's working at home anymore. So they're going to need that childcare...and now this year we don't have it."

Things could change in the future. In their statement, a spokesperson said, "Kyrene’s goal is to provide before/after school programs on every campus. Should enrollment demand increase, Kyrene would hope to open additional programs this school year."

Peoria Unified said they "condensed one program in our district due to lower demand – we had been monitoring our enrollment at this particular program for the past few years, so it is not necessarily COVID related."

Multiple other districts did not respond for comment.