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Families adjust as district cuts school childcare programs

Due to budget cuts, the free childcare program known as 6 to 6 at La Jolla elementary schools is no longer free.

Christiane McPhee of San Diego City Schools said the 6 to 6 structured program offered academic as well as a recreational components, providing academic support with a subject focus, like literacy or math, plus homework assistance.

There’s been an increase in the number of working families in elementary schools in the area, underscoring the increased need for childcare before and after school.

“This is an impact on working resident families who are now having to pay for childcare that was once paid for by the city,” said Bev Candage, principal at Bird Rock Elementary. “This is a financial burden.”

To fill the need, La Jolla YMCA has stepped in, expanding its Before and Afterschool Childcare program to accommodate families in affected schools, including Torrey Pines, La Jolla, Doyle, Curie and Bird Rock.

“We realize quality, affordable childcare is a necessity for many families in our community,” said Jennifer Dunn, La Jolla YMCA’s associate executive director. “The loss of 6 to 6 funding left a huge void in the childcare community, and it was important for us as a community organization to step up and fill that void.”

Dunn said the YMCA has opened up its state-licensed childcare program so parents have a place for kids to go after school. However, it comes at a price. The cost of childcare to elementary school students, five hours a day, 25 hours per week, will be in the $200 to $250 range. Each school has different pricing.

The YMCA’s efforts are admirable, though they do little to help already-struggling families.

“We have a lot of parents that can’t afford the YMCA program,” said Prinicipal Candage. “A lot of these are single parents working, and they don’t have the resources. I’m disappointed for our community that we lost the city’s support.”

Bird Rock Elementary’s 6 to 6 funding was cut completely this year after being scaled back in 2004. Candage said about 45 out of 475 students at Bird Rock Elementary participated in the 6 to 6 program last year, with another 20 students being served by the YMCA’s alternative childcare program.

“We had a lot of full-time kids that maybe didn’t have to be full-time,” she said. “Some of those students were part-time, some three days, some mornings, some pretty irregular.”

Childcare enrollment at Bird Rock Elementary is down now that the 6 to 6 program has been cut.

“Now that they’re paying for it, it’s looking like we have more part-time students,” said Candage. “We now have maybe 30 students in the YMCA’s program.”

Candage said Bird Rock Elementary works closely with the YMCA to keep its alternative program pretty comparable to what the city was providing with its 6 to 6 program.

La Jolla Elementary Principal Donna Tripi said the loss of the 6 to 6 program is regrettable, but “it hasn’t impacted us greatly. We just switched over to the YMCA’s program, which is a pay program.”

La Jolla Elementary’s 6 to 6 program suffered cuts before this year.

“In the last couple years, we’ve had reduced funding,” said Tripi. “We had 85 students in it, and that was reduced last year to 65, a substantial decrease by 20 percent. Last year, funding in the city was bad and it was hard to get any funding. I’m in one of the schools that didn’t get funding this year because we’re in an affluent community and most people can afford to pay for the childcare they need.”

Tripi said the YMCA’s childcare program at elementary schools offers homework assistance and arts and crafts instruction. One of the best things about the YMCA’s program, according to Tripi, is that it is required to have a set ratio of counselors to students.

“They just hired a number of counselors, and our school was not impacted at all,” she said.

Candage said the YMCA’s alternative childcare program may actually be an upgrade over the 6 to 6 Program.

“Because it is a pay program,” she said, “they’re able to offer more activities, able to bring in more expert people that the 6 to 6 Program was unable to bring in. When parents are paying, they’re paying for the little extras that come along with the childcare.”

The YMCA has scholarships for

families with financial hardships.

For more information, go to the front desk of the YMCA or go online to www.lajolla.ymca.org.

The La Jolla YMCA is also providing transportation between elementary schools and its facility at 8355 Cliffridge Ave., for those children wishing to participate in programs there.