Some NPS caregivers have raised concerns about inequitable access to affordable and flexible after-school childcare in the district. In summary, Leeds is currently the only one of the four elementary schools that administers its own after-school program, while the other three participate in a program run by the YMCA. While some families love the Y program, the Leeds program is cheaper and more flexible than the Y’s, and some families have pointed to this discrepancy and the need for greater affordability and flexibility for families at Jackson Street, Bridge Street, and Ryan Road schools.
Currently there is word circulating that the Leeds program may be cancelled in response to these concerns–that, in responding to calls for equity, the district may shut down the more flexible and affordable option and have all four elementary schools use the Y program. In response, some Leeds families have begun organizing against a potential closure, feeling protective of a program that the Leeds community worked hard to create and update and that has generally worked well.
REAL Northampton believes that equity is achieved when all community members are lifted up and all have access to rich resources–not by taking something valuable away from one of our schools, which in the case of the after-school program issue pits school against school and parent against parent. Given that, REAL Northampton urges administrators to work toward equity across the district’s after-school programs without dismantling the Leeds program, which is enjoyed by many Leeds families.
We urge administrators to think creatively to resolve this issue in a way that leads to increased affordability and flexibility for Jackson Street, Bridge Street, and Ryan Road families, rather than decreased affordability and flexibility for Leeds families.
We urge administrators to work toward uniting district families around the common purpose of affordable and flexible before- and after-school care, which should not be seen as a zero-sum game.
We urge administrators to facilitate communication and learning among the four elementary school communities, such that they can learn from one another and help meet each school’s needs.
We urge administrators to spend the necessary time to come up with a long-term approach that works for all, which could potentially continue to involve the Y, rather than apply a quick fix that leaves more families without the kind of childcare they need.