A majority of parents who use the daycare offered at Forest Lakes Elementary School want to keep the YWCA as the service provider for their school, mainly because their facility provides different types of child therapy such as tummy time therapy, while other parents want the school to consider alternatives. Who will decide whether to keep or replace the current daycare provider? A seven-member committee that will deliberate and vote in secret.
Forest Lakes Principal Christine Langrehr conducted a survey in April, asking all parents if the YWCA should be retained as the school’s daycare provider, or if others should be considered. Among the parents who answered the survey and had an opinion, 47 wanted the school to stick with the YWCA and 39 wanted to explore other options. The respondents included parents at the school who both did and did not have children in daycare.
Based on those results, Langrehr formed a committee that gave equal weight to the following groups of parents: parents who use the YWCA daycare at the school; parents who use offsite daycare with another provider; and parents who don’t currently use daycare at all. Two parents from each group, along with the principal, comprise the seven-member committee that will decide what changes, if any, will be made, according to Teri Kranefeld, manager of communications for Harford County Public Schools.
Following presentations made at a PTA meeting by the YWCA and competing providers, the committee was set to vote today (Wednesday) in a meeting that was not open to parents other than committee members and, despite a request from The Dagger, was not open to the press.
Parents in the YWCA program cried foul, saying they were excluded from a decision that will affect their children’s daycare and their family finances. Among those parents is Gina LaRocque, who has one child in the YWCA daycare now and a 10th grader who was in the program years ago. “Even if there is a change, at least we would feel we had a say…at least make it fair.” LaRocque said that she is satisfied with the YWCA and that the alternatives presented were more expensive. Parents also claimed that, until recently, Langrehr did not communicate well with parents outside of PTA meetings and that feedback from the YWCA parents was not properly noted.
Responding to questions about the process addressed to Harford County Public Schools and Langrehr, Kranefeld said in an e-mail:
“All parents are not invited to attend Committee meetings, however they have been offered the opportunity to view presentations by the vendors and to provide feedback on those presentations. Additionally, they have been encouraged to contact any of the committee members to provide input.”
When asked about the potential cost differential between the YWCA and a new provider, Kranefeld wrote:
“The new vendor has not been selected yet, therefore I do not know the cost difference at this time. However, the committee is attempting to find the provider that offers the greatest variety of opportunities for all of the children at an affordable rate.”
Worried about a change in their daycare provider, 72% of the 58 families in the Forest Lakes daycare program signed a petition in November asking the school committee to retain the YWCA.
Mary Chestnut, CEO of the YWCA of Greater Baltimore, said that the daycare program at Forest Lakes has a waiting list and that parents appear to be happy. She said there had been a few complaints that were addressed, including some from the principal. “I want to work constructively with the administration,” she said. The YWCA also provides daycare at Joppatowne and Hickory elementary schools and has provided daycare at Forest Lakes since the school opened in 1997. Chestnut said that the waiting list at Forest Lakes has eight to 10 families and that priority from year to year is given to families already in the program. Speaking of the school’s decision to explore alternatives, Chestnut said that it made sense to consider changes, “I just want to know that the process is fair and open.”
In a school newsletter e-mailed to parents today, Langrehr provided the following update, indicating that she is hopeful that the results of the committee vote will be shared at a PTA meeting on January 9.
“Daycare Selection Update
A parent letter was sent home on December 22, 2011, indicating the progress the Committee has made regarding the selection of the daycare program for the 2012-2013 school year. As explained, the process recommended by the Harford County Public Schools for this purpose is being followed. I am hopeful that a decision will be made this week and anticipate that the decision, and its rationale, can be shared at the January 9th PTA meeting. An AlertNow call will be sent at the end of this week to either confirm this date or to communicate a newly selected date for sharing the decision.
I wish to thank all the parents who have shared their comments and concerns with the members of the committee and with me. The committee has put much time and effort into this process and is truly being responsive to all input as a decision is made to offer a program which meets the needs of the entire school community.”
Below are the results of the survey of Forest Lakes ES parents in April 2010:
Below are the results of a survey of Forest Lakes parents whose children are in the YWCA daycare program: