The Santa Clara Unified School District Board of Trustees called a special meeting regarding State-mandated changes to childcare programs, a hot topic at the last Board meeting that got tabled.
Expanded Learning Opportunities Program
The special meeting on Thursday, Dec. 19 saw a reimagined plan for the State-mandated Expanded Learning Opportunities Program (ELOP) and how it will work with existing fee-based childcare programs like Family Child Education (FCE) as well as ASES providers (YMCA and Boys & Girls Club).
Since the last meeting where this topic got a lot of attention, Interim Superintendent Dr. Gary Waddell and staff held meetings with FCE staff and families. He said they want to prioritize keeping their current fee-based programs intact but because of the State requirements, they will have to look a little different.
ELOP is State-mandated and provides funding for afterschool and summer school enrichment programs for transitional kindergarten (TK) through 6th grade, according to the meeting agenda. ELOP must be offered at no charge and accessible to all “unduplicated pupils” who are identified in one or more of the following categories: low-income, English learner, youth in foster care, or youth experiencing homelessness. The program must be in place by July 1, 2023.
The main concern for many is that they must prioritize childcare spots for the unduplicated population before offering fee-based spots. They hope that by bringing in the Right at School vendor, they will be able to accommodate the current fee-based families once the unduplicated students have the care they need. They also understand that not all unduplicated families will participate in ELOP.
Santa Clara Unified staff explained at the last meeting that they cannot simply chug along as they have been. They have about 3,542 unduplicated TK – 6th grade students they must serve. Their current offerings get nowhere near that capacity. There are 526 children in FCE programs and these programs still can’t accommodate everyone with their long waitlists. Of those 526 children, about 20% are unduplicated and 394 unduplicated kids are on the waitlists. ASES, another partner program, is serving 409 children and 270 of those are unduplicated, according to Dr. Waddell. So, they are only serving less than 400 unduplicated students when the potential need is for over 3,500.
“On our own, we might get stuck trying to serve the [ELOP] requirements,” said Kathy Kanavel, Assistant Superintendent of Education Services.
The current plan on the table isn’t for the full program just yet. Kanavel wants to start with a pilot program in the spring with the vendor Right at School where they can work on developing the new ELOP program with existing programs and partners. The pilot would start at Agnews, Braly, Laurelwood and Westwood elementary schools since these sites have high rates of unduplicated students and long waitlists for childcare programs. The pilot will run parallel to existing fee-based programs. They will have about 30 spaces at each pilot site and if there is space, they will pull from that site’s childcare waitlist.
Eventually, they plan to have an ELOP program at almost every Santa Clara Unified elementary and middle school site – if they didn’t, they would have to offer transportation. They will be scouting out childcare locations on each site during the pilot program.
Another layer to this is that with the introduction of the ELOP programs which must include “enrichment, play, nutrition and other developmentally appropriate activities,” according to Kanavel, the District wants to shift their fee-based programs to offer equitable offerings too.
The community called in to inquire about Right at School’s minimum hiring requirements (which match FCE) and rates for fee-based childcare (which almost match FCE).
The vendor contract with Right at School passed unanimously but will come back after the pilot program runs its course.
This was the only item on the special meeting’s agenda. The Board’s next regular meeting is on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023