Access to quality childcare for all Berkeley Heights elementary students who need it

Access to quality childcare for all Berkeley Heights elementary students who need it

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Athena Sapir started this petition to Berkeley Heights Board of Education

Accessible child care not only affects the families who need it, but our communities as well.  It improves employment, revenue, and housing prices. In our town, only around 20% of our kindergarten and first grade children have access to an after-school program.  We find that unacceptable.

Berkeley Heights families should have access to quality child care before and after elementary school, supporting the changing demographics of today’s young families.

The Berkeley Heights school district is working on providing all day kindergarten which is a fundamental step in modernizing our system and we fully support the efforts.  We also acknowledge that this week you have taken some steps to start exploring the concept of how to expand our town’s child care options for before and afterschool. Thank you.  We want to ensure you understand how important these efforts are.

Out of almost 700 school districts in the state of New Jersey, we are one out of less than 40 without a full time kindergarten curriculum in place for all families who need it.  It is 2020 and we appreciate that at least this aspect is being investigated. But we believe that with all day kindergarten needs to come consideration for wrap around care. We need to modernize our view of current families: dual income is a reality and Berkeley Heights is not keeping up with the rest of the state. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018 63% of families with children under 18 have both parents employed.   

With these statistics, it is clear that there is a gap in our community.  While not every family in Berkeley Heights may need this type of support, plenty of parents here struggle to figure out reliable and safe options before school starts and after it ends. 

Many school systems in this area offer such programs or partner with local businesses to ensure every family who needs the support can receive it. Millburn, Warren, Summit and Chatham provide afterschool care options that are located at their schools and provide information on their websites.

Here in our own town, we are lucky to have the YMCA which, for years, has provided exceptional care to our youngest citizens.  However, as demographics have shifted and childcare needs have changed, we are facing the challenge of the Y no longer being able to accommodate every family.  For example, the Y can only accommodate 19 first grade students at their on-site Aftercare program. As of Friday March 6th, this program was already full with a waitlist of 18 students for the 2020/21 school year.  Additional grades are also at capacity and have waitlists. This is very concerning and frustrating to many of our families because the Y is the only aftercare program in town, and we are now left searching for options for something that we never thought would be an issue.  Many families rely on neighbors, high schoolers, babysitters, family members, and nannies to fulfill the childcare needs of their families. For some of us, this is not an ideal or reliable option. We believe that a solution can be found, and we are asking that the school system work with the Y and other possible childcare providers to develop other aftercare options for the township.

Our kids deserve a quality option in this town.  Our town should support our local businesses who are working hard to provide a variety of safe, reliable, and enriching experiences for our children.  After school programs improve student success in reading and math according to the national Afterschool Alliance. It also improves the physical health of our children through encouraging physical activity and good dietary habits.  Parents concerned about their children’s afterschool care miss an average of eight days of work per year, and this decreased worker productivity costs businesses up to $300 billion annually according to a study done by Brandeis University.  This effort benefits all of us.  And we, the parents, would pay the full cost.  It would not require any additional spend from our taxpayers.  But our taxpayers would benefit as our housing prices and tax revenue would increase by attracting new businesses and higher income families into our town. 

This town’s support can make things happen.  We are thrilled with the efforts you are making to have all day kindergarten become a reality.  We are excited to see what comes of the referendum committee. We hope you can continue to make working with the community to ensure childcare for all who need it a priority as well. 

Know that we are here and willing to work with you to make this a reality.

 

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