Frequently Given Excuses
Below are a list of excuses I have encountered while trying to have the issue of Out of School Care wait lists addressed. You don’t have to spend much time on this topic before you will come up against one or more of these excuses.
That is Correct, but it is their responsibility to follow the school act, and the school act requires schools to make underutilized space available to care providers.
“a board must establish a policy promoting the use of board property by licensed child care providers”
The act does not instruct school districts to provide the actual child care, BUT it does instruct them to provide the SPACE for child care.
No. A district must follow the Act.
With regard to section 85.1, the authors of the BC School Act were clear. Districts must place an emphasis on making space available to care providers providing it “does not disrupt or otherwise interfere with the provision of educational activities”.
Educational activities are from 9-3pm. Before/After school care by definition is not interfering with school activities because they are before and after school.
There is no net cost to the school. All costs are paid for by the licensed care provider (who is paid by the parents of the kids attending the program and the Ministry of Children and Family Development).
The BC School Act does not suggest that school boards would provide the actual child care, just the facility. That is an important distinction to remember. No school board money is required. The care provider is using the existing facility. The heat and lights are already on. Child care staffing and materials are provided by the licensed care provider. There is no cost to the school board. The Act makes it clear in subsection (3) that any “direct and indirect” facility costs are allocated to the care providers in their lease agreement.
There is no cost to the school board.
Parents on average pay about $400/month for OSC. In addition, the Ministry of Children and Family Development also pays the care provider $415/month/child (before and after school care). A good deal for the government if it means a parent can go back to work and resume paying income taxes. Not to mention the additional care provider staff who are also paying income taxes.
The programs they are referring to are not child care programs. These after school programs operate sporadically (Monday-Thursday, 3-4:30pm, 4-5 weeks at a time with a 2-3 week break between programs, and they don’t operate in the Summer).
These after school programs they refer to are not intended to be a substitute for child care. They do not work for working parents who cannot take off time to accommodate these temporary program schedules.
And to make matters worse many of these programs are operating in schools where there is a shortage of Out of School Care spaces. As a result they are using physical space that could otherwise be used to provide more OSC (that ALL kids could benefit from).
These programs need to be updated so that they meet the scheduling needs of working parents. The Independent School system has figured this out. They offer parent funded “After School Clubs”. As a result there are virtually no wait lists anywhere in the IS system.
How can a school have room for hundreds of kids from 9-3pm and then at 3:01pm there is no room for a mere fraction of those same kids.
In the City of Vancouver, school sites are routinely in breach of this school:playfield area ratio. School boards do not hesitate to run afoul of this ratio when it is for something they wish to do.
We are talking about a few cabinets. They could be placed pretty much anywhere. With little effort a suitable spot could be found.
This would be legitimate if it were true.
But by definition alone, Before and After school care can’t be interfering with school activities because they are “Before” and “After” school.
Many parents and teachers invest a lot of their personal time providing after school activities such as coaching basketball, volleyball or teaching music, drama.
Out of School Care programs generally operate in the cafeteria area (or wherever the kids eat their lunch), which would not impact these other activities.
So how was this very same space “suitable” from 9-3pm?
Well, from 9-3pm your kids are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education. Before school and after school your kids would then be under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Children and Family Development and the Child Care Licensing Regulation. The Ministry of Health provides child care licensing officers to ensure the “space” is suitable from a health and safety perspective.
So a cafeteria that could comfortably seat 200 kids, would be restricted by the Ministry of Health to only seating 60 kids. That is because the Child Care Licensing Regulation considers your kids to be toddlers (not students) and therefore requires each toddler to have 3.7 square meters of space.
The Regulations would also require more washrooms and for these washrooms to be on the same level as the cafeteria.
So despite your kids being able to navigate their way around the school from 9-3pm as students, the Child Care Licensing Regulation still insists on treating them as toddlers.
So if the school space fails to meet any of the Child Care Regulation requirements, then the application for Out of School Care by the provider is denied. The provider may apply for a temporary exemption, but this is a long and time consuming exercise with no certainty of success.
Let’s remember these are students in their own school, not toddlers in a daycare.
From 9-3pm their school teacher probably had a class of about 20 kids (BC class size limits: K=20, Gr 1-3 = 22, Gr 4-7 = 26).
But before and after school, a licensed care provider is limited to just 12 kids per adult.
If a school teacher is managing 20 kids AND teaching them, then certainly a licensed care giver can manage the same number of kids. The care givers role is to provide adult supervision in a safe environment during the parent’s absence.
By increasing the number of kids from 12 to 20 you are increasing the opportunity to pay these care givers more (and over the long term increasing the supply and quality of care givers).
Remember these are students. Their parents just need a safe (hopefully fun) place for them to go before and after school for a few hours.
Another factor impacting the number of kids per adult is the physical dimensions of the OSC space within the school.
The Child Care Licensing Regulation requires 3.7 square meters per child. This is too much considering during the school day under the Ministry of Education it is 1/3 of that. You just have to walk into a school’s OSC area at 3:30pm and you will see it is only 1/3 full with all the kids at one end playing in small groups.
The Child Care Licensing Regulations minimum space requirement for school age children needs to be changed to match that of the Ministry of Education.
So how did the kids manage to survive from 9-3pm? They ate their lunch somewhere, they had recess somewhere, they played somewhere . . .
Parents are looking for some adult supervision for their kids for an hour or so before and after school. Any school facility can manage that.
The list of solutions parents have been forced to come up with is creative, sometimes exhausting, sometimes dangerous.
- a popular solution is to rely on retired grandparents. This is not an option to many parents. It means grandparents having to put their retirement on hold so that they can drop their grandchild at school twice a day.
- Making arrangements with other parents in the neighborhood to take turns dropping the kids at school. This usually works for a while, but eventually one or more parent’s circumstances change and the remaining parents are left scrambling. There is always issues of what to do when one of the children or parents get sick or goes on vacation. There can also be confusion over “who’s turn it is”. It is a lot of effort to make this work.
- Paying someone to drop your child off and pick them up. This can work, but can be expensive and there is still the issue of sickness and vacations.
- Having a grade 7 student (with their Red Cross babysitting certificate) pick your child up each day. Some parents may not be comfortable with this.
- Having your child walk home on their own and hoping everything turns out ok. Right now there are some very young latch-key kids out there. (But what are parents supposed to do?)
None of these solutions are ideal and the risks are obvious.
Parents want and need before and after school care. It costs the school board nothing and it is mandated in the BC School Act.