BAY VILLAGE, Ohio — With COVID-19 throwing wrenches into school schedules, work schedules and daycare availability, parents everywhere have had to scramble to find reliable childcare, whether their children are studying remotely from home or need a place to go before or after in-person school.
In the Bay Village City School District, that angst came to a head shortly before the remote-learning start to the 2020-2021 academic year in August. Students will return to a hybrid of in-person classes and online instruction beginning Sept. 14.
Before the semester started, some parents who were relying on before and/or after-school care for their school-age children at the school system’s Glenview Center for Child Care and Learning said they felt blindsided to learn that children of school district staff members might be taking their spots.
No parents were willing to go on the record with their comments about the issue. But several said they had been told to pay for the center’s summer program if they wanted to secure their children’s placement for the fall. Now, they say, parents are being told that Glenview will only serve staff members’ children during periods of remote learning.
Dorothy Chadwick was the school’s former director. Alexa Davey took over during the summer. Glenview reopened at the end of June, following the March shutdown of schools due to the coronavirus pandemic. Currently, it provides paid daycare for toddlers through Pre-K and paid all-day care for about eight school-age children of district staff members.
When Bay Village Schools Superintendent Jodie Hausmann was asked if parents were told they should go ahead and pay for the summer program to save them a place for the fall, she said that was “part of (Chadwick’s) direction.”
Did Hausmann agree with Chadwick? “I didn’t do either (agree or disagree). It was sort of a standard protocol,” she said.
A statement from the school system’s public relations office said: “The previous Glenview Center director had a procedure that summer tuition guaranteed daycare parents a spot in the fall. The new director will review this procedure and make a decision on if we will honor this moving forward.”
A few days later, school district spokesperson Karen Uthe Semancik said in an email to cleveland.com that those promises will be honored once the district returns to in-person classes.
“No one was told they would not have a spot. No one prepaid any funds (for fall),” she said.
“When school resumes in person, any family who reserved a before/after-school care spot will be honored,” she said.
Some parents had paid the summer tuition, even if they didn’t need programming then, “because the idea was that Glenview would then either provide e-learning support if we started the year remotely or they would provide after-school care,” parents told cleveland.com.
According to the parents, “They are only opening Glenview for the children of district teachers, so they won’t have to take leave to homeschool their own kids, meaning those who paid for the summer in the hopes of securing a spot for fall will be out the money they paid for the summer.”
Hausmann said that is not true.
“There is a lot of confusion around that,” she said. “No, they have after-school care, of course, and the summer day program. No programming has stopped.”
She said there were misconceptions that parents’ spots were being taken by staff and that the daycare would be free to staff members. She addressed those misconceptions in a recent letter to Glenview parents.
In the letter, she noted that “the district did explore the option of providing tuition-based childcare in our school buildings during eLearning.” But that was deemed unfeasible, since it couldn’t be opened up to all district students, “and opening to only some of our parents would not be fair.”
Hausmann declined to say whether a refund would be issued to parents who had paid the tuition only to hold a spot for the fall.
Approximately 15 to 20 parents participated in a Zoom meeting earlier in August, held with the school system’s human resources director, Holly Shafer, in which the parents provided pre-written questions. It was said the meeting became very tense and heated, at which time Shafer “cut everyone off and wouldn’t let them speak (by muting them) and then took only the questions she wanted to answer,” parents said.
Hausmann said: “That information is absolutely incorrect. Dr. Shafer did not end the meeting. All saying that — it’s not true.
“I think people are always worried in these times of great change, like all of us. I think it sounds like it was heated; I didn’t perceive it that way. I think the conversation was very truthful and honest. Parents shared their worries, but it was not heated. I disagree with that,” Hausmann said.
Uthe Semancik explained that during the current remote-learning mode, the eight children of staff members — who are paying tuition — are being kept in a K-2 pod at the center, separate from the younger daycare children.
“That’s about eight kids out of 400 employees,” she said.
She said offering daycare to staff members was prompted by the new federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which gives a variety of employees the option to request up to 12 weeks of paid leave to care for their children if they do not have childcare available during the pandemic.
“Because we rely on the expertise of our teachers, we offered support,” she said. Otherwise, if teachers or staff members took leave, the district would have to pay both them and short-term substitutes.
“As the largest employer of the city of Bay Village, the school district feels it is important to offer this service to its employees,” Uthe Semancik said in an email to cleveland.com.
“We believe strongly that it is in our students’ best interests to have Bay Village teachers and staff working with them, especially remote instruction,” she said.
Glenview Center for Child Care and Learning is located at 28227 Wolf Road in Bay Village. Phone is 440-617-7330.
Read more from the West Shore Sun.