The Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education held a public meeting Wednesday to receive public comments and provide school operations updates.
The meeting started off with public comment where several parents raised concerns about the lack of childcare programs. Bryce Hella, a parent and child psychologist, described the challenges for dual working parent households due to lack of childcare.
“My husband and I are fortunate enough to have jobs … but not jobs that offer flexibility in after-school hours,” Hella said. “I’m a child psychologist trying to do my part to help children and families manage the current mental health crisis, and need to be available after school hours to do that job … For us, we need to have five days a week (childcare) available or it’s not helpful.”
Melissa Grzesiak, a parent of a former AAPS student, said that her family depended on before and after school programs, and the school district has underestimated parents’ desires for this service.
“Due to lack of childcare at our neighborhood A2 public school, we made the difficult decision to switch to a private school,” Grzesiak said. “Being that we’re no longer a part of AAPS, we were not included in the Thought Exchange survey. If we and the many other families who left AAPS were included in this survey, the percentage of those wishing to prioritize childcare would likely be much higher than 29%.”
The Thought Exchange survey was conducted by AAPS earlier this year to solicit community input on the priorities for the school. The survey received 3,078 responses, of which 68% of respondents said the highest priority should be hiring high-quality professional and support staff.
AAPS Superintendent Jeanice Swift acknowledged the childcare challenges, attributing it to the lingering labor shortage. She also highlighted the school district’s achievement under the circumstances.
“The labor challenges have really impacted our hourly employees and that includes our bus drivers, our TAs and very much our childcare supporting staff,” Swift said. “Because of our dedicated staff members, we have successfully offered five before and after school programs and also posted three additional long-term (service) providers in our schools.”
Jenna Bacolor, the executive director of AAPS community division, summarized what the school district learned about childcare, including the need for more creatively designed full-time positions and additional recruitment effort.
“Pay increases and bonuses were only marginally successful in attracting new staff,” Bacolor said. “We are adding a combined lunch supervisor/before and after care position with new benefits and a program director position. That creates a career pathway, because more education and experiences could lead to higher pay.”
Bacolor also pledged additional recruitment efforts with the help of Child Care Stabilization Funds, which is supported by the American Rescue Plan. She encouraged AAPS community members to help encourage others to apply for staffing positions.
“What we really could use help with from parents is spreading the word,” Bacolor said. “Utilizing your social network to let people know (about jobs at AAPS) … especially this program director job. It requires a Bachelor’s degree and it is a higher-paying union job, so it is very meaningful.”
Daily Staff Reporter Chen Lyu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.