At a special meeting Thursday, the Saugus School Board is expected to address the costs, concerns and operations of one of the Santa Clarita Valley’s largest child care and development programs.
“The concern is that we need to close the gap between the income and expenditures,” said Michelle Morse, director of child development for the Saugus Union School District.
The issue is that, in spite of a 9 percent tuition increase last year, the programs are still operating at a deficit, said Christine Hamlin, assistant superintendent of instruction for the program.
This prompted the school district’s governing board to ask staff to re-evaluate services and revenue, Hamlin said.
The Child Development Programs include the before- and after-school care, as well as the preschool programs.
The meeting will include a presentation looking at ways improve the program’s fiscal solvency, and will include a staff recommendation, Hamlin said.
What that will entail is still being evaluated by staff, Morse said.
The before- and after-school program is offered to any child who attends an elementary school in the Saugus Union School District in grades transitional kindergarten through sixth grade at their school of attendance. The preschool programs are offered to children as young as 3 if space is available, according to the district’s website.
The Saugus Union School District includes more than 10,000 kindergarten through sixth-grade students on the west side of the Santa Clarita Valley.
The programs are primarily tuition-based, although there is support from county grant programs, such as Los Angeles Universal Preschool, and state grants, Morse said. The program receives no funding from the district’s general fund.
District officials are open to feedback and encourage parents to come to Thursday’s meeting and participate, said Saugus Union board President Paul De La Cerda.
“We encourage anyone, especially anyone with a business background, to come on out (Thursday),” De La Cerda said. “We’re looking at how we can come up with a good solution.”
The program currently costs parents using the program $312 each month for after-school care.
The preschool, which is 3.5 hours per day, five days per week, costs $477 per month.
“When you look it up in comparison to other programs, we are not expensive,” Morse said, adding that an advantage the SUSD programs is that they offer a degree of flexible pricing with respect to parental need. Parents are not charged for weeks they do not use the program, she said, which is contrary to most child care programs.
Morse also said she’s been seeking out input on the program, and communication from parents is very helpful.
“Their support at the meeting makes a big statement,” she said. “I’m always talking to parents (and asking), ‘Are there things we can do to improve?’ I truly believe everyone can be better.”
SUSD is the only Santa Clarita Valley school district of the four elementary school districts (including Castaic Union, Newhall and Sulphur Springs) that handle their child care program in house, De La Cerda said.
“The program is definitely not going away,” De La Cerda said, when asked if the outsourcing model that other districts use is something the district would consider. “It’s an awesome program, and we’re going to do everything we can — but we have to tighten up. The economy is still pretty rough out there.”
The special meeting of the Governing Board will begin at 6:30 p.m. If necessary, the board will then go into closed session following the study session.