Parents who typically have young children at Schoolmates, a longstanding city-run day care operating at each of Piedmont’s three elementary schools, may have to make alternate arrangements for their kids Thursday, Aug. 29, a consequence of staffing changes made in 2018.
Because those three elementary schools will have Back-to-School Nights that night — accompanied by noon class dismissals — and because Schoolmates is open each school day from 2 to 6 p.m., some families likely will have to find a place for their young kids to be between noon and 2 p.m.
The staffing changes were borne from a Piedmont Unified School District board vote in March 2017 to have all kindergartners attend each school from 8:30 a. m. to 2 p. m. instead of two classes attending each school on a staggered schedule. The changes took effect for the 2018-2019 school year.
Piedmont officials say that change has meant, for Schoolmates, less kindergartner open time, and thus fewer young kids coming in, especially in the mornings. The more kindergartners in class in the morning, the fewer in Schoolmates, to the point that Schoolmates staffing changed to adjust to the parents’ needs.
Piedmont Interim Recreation Director Erin Rivera said that, before the kindergarten schedule was changed, Schoolmates was open at each of the three campuses with staff on site from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. every school day — hours still offered over the summer at one of those three sites.
“Our staff are scheduled to work from 1:30 to -6 p.m. each day,” Rivera said. “Most have other morning jobs or are in school, so we don’t have the staffing to safely accommodate students at 12 noon.”
With local kindergartners in school more hours each day, program income (from parents’ registration fees) dropped, and thus did regular hours, now only from 2 to 6 p.m. Afternoon kindergarten numbers, Rivera said, have remained steady.*
“Our challenge has been to get enough staff from 12 to 2 to cover that time,” said Jackson Stearns, Piedmont’s recreation supervisor.
Vice Mayor Teddy Gray King mentioned the issue at Monday night’s City Council meeting, and the need for parents of young kids to be prepared. This Thursday, she said, will be the first such Schoolmates scheduling issue of this kind. Three or four others are expected during this school year.
“This is going to be a really big deal for a lot of local families, so you need to get ahead of what our child care options are,” King said.
In the meantime, Schoolmates staff are trying to do the best they can with what they have. Assistant City Administrator John Tulloch said Monday that Schoolmates has been a valuable service to Piedmonters for as long as he can remember — literally. His own kids have been through the program, and so has he.
“That’s how my mom could work from 8 to 5 in San Francisco,” said Tulloch, who grew up in Piedmont. “She dropped me off at 7:30, and picked me up at 6.”
(*An earlier version of this story erroneously reported that Kindergarten numbers as well as hours had dropped.)
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