After plans fell through at the last minute to establish after school child care sites, Stoughton Area School District officials are focusing on ways to put programming in place for next school year.
District superintendent Tim Onsager discussed the issue with the school board at its Aug. 26 meeting, where he described how several attempts to partner with non-profit or for-profit groups didn’t work out.
Last year, SASD teamed up with the Stoughton Community Recreation Department to create a new afterschool care program at the Kegonsa Elementary School attendance area; the first in the district. The program had around 15 students enrolled by last winter, but Onsager said city officials “made it very clear” they couldn’t continue the program another year without grant funding.
“It was not something they could sustain financially,” he said. “They were also having a tough time hiring people.”
The district was working with a company to bring after school sites to Fox Prairie and Sandhill elementaries, but they couldn’t get enough students at the sites to operate. The district then contracted with Fort Littlegreen to provide care at all the buildings, pending state licensure — but the business informed the district in mid-August they were not able to get the license. District officials estimated around a dozen families at each school could be affected.
“We had a good win-win situation and unfortunately that didn’t pan out,” Onsager said. “This close to the start of school, it’s too late to find another partner too late to put in a program of our own.”
The underlying problem for childcare centers, he said, is making enough money to be cost-neutral, “especially when you consider some families are saying they would need scholarship or they can’t afford the full price.”
“That’s what more and more districts are running into,” Onsager said. “How do you do that balance? What we’re finding is the for-profit and non-profits are having a tough time getting enough paid families in order to sustain and offer scholarships for families who can’t afford it.”
In the meantime, Onsager said district staff will keep looking for options with both types of child care centers to provide some choices for families.
“We’re not looking to make a profit from them using our buildings,” Onsager said. “Some of our families are looking for consistency, something everyday after school (or) when schools are not in session. But when school’s not in session or a snow day, we don’t have the staff, so there’s a lot of different nuances we need to discuss.”