For many Homer parents, finding after-school childcare is a struggle, and earlier school start times have only made the problem worse. The principals of Fireweed Academy, West Homer Elementary and Paul Banks Elementary are trying fill that need but the schools will need to strum up support for funding before a program can get off the ground.
Eric Waltenbaugh is the Principal of West Homer Elementary, and he said parents have spoken loud and clear in multiple surveys that they want consistent after-school childcare.
“There's such a great need, and it’s really an economic need as well,” he said. “Families with two working parents need this type of activities for kids to do before they get off work. We've heard that over and over from our families.”
But the school district is not able to run or fund such a program. All three principals originally looked to the Boys and Girls Club for help, hoping to bring the club back to the area. But due to financial reasons, the Boys and Girls club said it couldn’t offer programming in Homer.
Now, the principals are looking elsewhere.
“I think there are a number of other entities that we've talked to informally that would be supportive,” he said. “I think it's just a matter of somebody taking or spearheading the project and really galvanizing support around that.”
On Monday, the three school administrators pitched the after-school care idea to the Homer City Council.
Their idea is to staff both West Homer Elementary and Paul Banks Elementary five days per week for the roughly 130 students they say need after-school care.
The program is estimated to cost roughly $95,000 with staffing costs making up the majority of that price tag. The school district would pay for custodial expenses and bussing for Little Fireweed students.
Paul Banks Elementary Eric Pederson said that roughly 50 percent of the parents surveyed said they were willing to pay for the programming.
“They would pay up to 60 bucks a month and then there were 30 percent out of that cohort that would pay $720 for a school year,” he said.
But it’s unclear if parents by themselves could fund such a program.
Pederson and his colleagues asked the council Monday if the city would be willing to help fund the initiative, but some council members asked for a more specific request.
“It’s really hard to say that because you don't know. People on a survey may say, ‘yeah, I'd be willing to pay $720 for childcare,’ but when it comes down to it, what percentage of the parents would actually do it and how many could actually pay for it?” he asked. “I think that's kind of the hard part where it gets to be almost trial and error to some degree.”