Support

Progressive Voice: Extended Day Program Needs More than a Random Solution

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.

By Claire Noakes

If you think it is hard getting a reservation at the popular restaurant Komi, you haven’t tried enrolling your elementary school children in the APS Extended Day program. Parents mark their calendars and set midnight alarms because the stakes are high for a limited number of slots. Yet, for two years in a row, the vendor failed, the website crashed and parents became frantic, staying up late at night or missing work to line up in person on registration day.

After being unable to hire a suitable replacement vendor, the Extended Day program chose to end its first come, first serve policy, instead offering enrollment if a student is registered between April 1 – May 15. They instituted a random lottery system at schools receiving more registrations than slots available. Children not enrolled will be on a waiting list.

This lottery creates a random outcome and also fails to address the core issue: demand for Extended Day exceeds the supply of childcare slots. Last year, 271 children were placed on the waitlist because there were not enough slots available, and demand is projected to increase. It’s time to focus on how to better support Extended Day.

Around 4,100 kids participate in Extended Day at 31 Arlington schools, allowing for a seamless handoff before and after the school day, including on early release days. This population is equivalent to filling roughly seven elementary schools.

Yet management of this significant program is anything but seamless. APS operates the Extended Day program, and donates the physical school space, but APS is prohibited by state law from spending a dime of its budget on childcare services. Parents pay fees on a sliding scale to cover operational and staffing costs, but parents can’t buy more physical space from APS to meet the enrollment demand. Arlington County contributes to the cost of building APS schools and subsidizes around $200,000 in sliding fees for lower-income parents, but doesn’t have a direct management role in the program. Under this set up, each stakeholder has limited ability to influence the program in its entirety, and it’s easy for Extended Day to fall through the cracks.

But imagine a world where the program no longer operates:

  • Kids would no longer get a safe, unstructured play opportunity with a large number of their peers. Unstructured play with kids of different ages affords unique social development opportunities that can’t easily be replicated.
  • Parents would lose a reliable, high quality source of childcare aimed at addressing the mismatch between employer schedules and school hours. Finding a qualified individual to care for your kid for just a few hours a day is a logistical nightmare, and individuals get sick or have emergencies. Many parents would have to cut back on hours or forego a needed second income.
  • Commuters could see traffic spike as schools filled up and emptied out completely at bell time, increasing school bus ridership, and traffic and parking management.
  • Arlington County’s Child Care Initiative could experience a setback in improving access, availability and quality of childcare for residents.

The Extended Day program provides excellent value to the community. Arlington County, APS and parents must step up and creatively address short and longer-term concerns.

Could the county offer to run the enrollment process this year? Could the county pay for retrofits of flexible space options (such as interior removable partitions) at schools to allow for classroom space to be converted to meet the higher square footage requirements for child care space? Could PTAs brainstorm with principals and Extended Day staff on how to maximize use of existing physical space? Is new school design helping or hurting the capacity challenges of this program?

Parents won’t be setting their alarms at midnight this year, but there is still plenty to keep us up at night worrying about the Extended Day program. It’s time for all stakeholders to look at structural ways to eliminate waiting lists for this high-impact program that benefits so many Arlington working families.

Claire Noakes lives near the East Falls Church metro station, where she enjoys watching her children chase rabbits away from their vegetable garden.

Recent Stories

Everyone has flat screen TVs already so how about a more interesting Black Friday special? The ARLnow Press Club for free, to try out the daily Early Morning Notes email…

There’s not a whole lot going on in Arlington today, save for activity at local shopping centers, so we’re going to fast forward right to the top story countdown. Here…

Statues of Liberty gives thanks this holiday season and grateful for a few things this year.

Happy Thanksgiving, Arlington!

It’s turkey time. Thanksgiving Eve is upon us and extra revelry can be expected at some local bars tonight, ahead of the holiday. Please be careful on the roads and…

The Optimist Club of Arlington is holding its 76th annual Christmas tree sale!

This year, the tree sale will be held at the Knights of Columbus (5115 Little Falls Road). The lot opens for sales on November 25th. The Optimist Club is selling small and large trees ranging from tabletop size to huge 14 foot tall trees! Wreaths, garlands, tree stands, and White House Christmas ornaments will also be for sale.

100% of all proceeds go towards helping Arlington County youth.

For more information, please visit the Arlington Optimists website at https://optimistclubofarlingtonva.org/.

Submit your own Announcement here.

Art House 7 is a small art studio in Arlington – offering instruction in painting, ceramics, sewing and more. We are looking for kind, dedicated people who love both creating and teaching.

Ceramic Teachers are needed to teach wheel-throwing to adults and 6-12th graders and to teach hand building to elementary grades. Classes have 3-8 students.

Drawing teachers are needed to teach either kids or adults. For kids, we offer cartooning, manga or traditional drawing. For adults, we only offer traditional drawing.

Painting teachers are needed to teach either kids or adults. We offer oil, acrylic or watercolor for adults or teens. All elementary classes use acrylic and tempera.

Read More

Submit your own Announcement here.

National Chamber Ensemble – Holiday Cheer!

NCE’s Holiday Concert will bring the finest classical masterpieces and holiday favorites together for the whole family. The festivities begin with Leroy Anderson’s classic “Sleigh Ride” and “Chanukkah Festival”, music from the Nutcracker and by J.S. Bach.

Outstanding Young Artist

Tony Woods Live – Standup Comedy Showcase

Live Standup Comedy Starring the Legendary Tony Woods!
Arlington, VA
Friday, November 25

8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. (Doors at 7pm)
Crystal City Sports Pub (3rd floor lounge)
529 23rd Street South, Arlington, VA
$15 – General admission
$20 –

×

Subscribe to our mailing list