District to open free K-5 child care by next week

Registration encouraged by noon Thursday

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

DIXON – The school district expects to have a free child care service up and running by Monday.

Parents will be notified today and are encouraged to register their child by noon Thursday.

The district is planning on regular classes being canceled Thursday, the day the Dixon Education Association has said it will begin its strike.

If the strike continues Monday, the child care service will operate weekdays from 7:20 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. while teachers are on strike or until parents are notified otherwise.

Kindergarten through fifth-grade students will be supervised by the district’s 56 full-time and 9 part-time support staff members, which includes paraprofessionals, secretaries, librarians and nurses, and by the district’s 10 to 12 administrators.

Attendance is not required and no classroom instruction will be provided.

“This is an outreach to our parents, who perhaps are double working families and are unable to have relatives care for their children, or perhaps financially, to afford child care,” Assistant Superintendent Margo Empen said. “The district is providing support to those parents at this difficult time.”

Dixon administrators, resource officers and building grounds personnel met Tuesday to discuss plans for the child care service.

Empen said the district will utilize its computer labs, gym, libraries and supplies to keep students active.

No transportation will be provided, and students must bring their own lunch and snacks.

Teachers are asking parents to question what will be gained when the district opens its schools as day care centers.

“If students attend, they will not be receiving instruction in the academic curriculum, they will not be adequately and safely supervised, nor will they have productive experiences at the schools,” said a letter posted to the DEA’s website. “As long as the superintendent and school board’s focus is on this pointless re-opening of the schools, they will not be focused on negotiating with the teachers.”

The district estimates 1,000 to 1,200 students could sign up, although Empen said they are not sure how many actually will. She said there is no limit to how many can register.

The district will have a better idea Thursday how many students will participate, and that’s when administrators will finalize plans for where students will go. All of the district’s buildings could be potential sites for the child care service.

“We will not turn a parent away,” Empen said. “We will do everything in our power to make sure space is available.”

Superintendent Michael Juenger does not expect the district to absorb many additional costs in opening schools for child care.

“Most of those people had to come into work anyway,” Juenger said. “For the most part, it will not cost us a lot.”

The district, however, will lose general state aid funding for any days it does not make up. Make-up days will be negotiated.

Empen said the district’s lunch provider has been contacted and could provide food at a cost to the district.

“In a best-case scenario, we won’t have to do this for very long,” Empen said of the child care. “We are making it an option for our families to choose.”

Have questions?

Call the administration office, 815-284-7722, with questions about the school district's child care service. Go to www.dixonschools.org to fill out registration forms.

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