Early release days frustrate parents
A proposal to release Aspen Elementary School students early on Wednesdays next school year has upset some parents who say it will cut into their work and pocketbooks.The district decided on Monday to finish elementary school at 1:40 p.m. on Wednesdays next year, an hour and a half earlier than the normal release time. Several parents say the early release will force them to either leave work early or pay for child care.”Finding child care for my kindergartner or taking off work one afternoon a week will be very difficult for my husband and myself,” Nancy Pearce wrote in an e-mail to The Aspen Times. “The early release will mean a loss of income for our family and create stress with the added scheduling complexity.”Elementary School Principal Robin Whitacre said the early release will allow teachers greater planning time and the chance to meet weekly as a group. She also said it brings Aspen in line with other districts in the state.”We’ve been teaching more hours than the state recommends,” Whitacre said. “That means our teachers’ planning has suffered. The early release will give the teachers a chance to assess their methods and plan ahead, and that’s crucial.”Whitacre said the school district is looking to partner with child care organizations in Aspen to take care of the students on Wednesdays. Whitacre is also in contact with other districts that offer early release to see how they have addressed child care concerns.”Other districts are doing this. The good thing is we don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” she said.Whatever the solution, it will be tough to satisfy parents like Kim Allen, whose son Finn is going into kindergarten next year. Allen said the closure this year of the school’s Extended Day Program, which offered after-school care, has already put a strain on parents. The district should have consulted more parents about cutting school services even more, Allen said.”I only heard about this through the grapevine. We were never made aware of public open forums to discuss this. What are some other solutions? How else can we cut back? It was ‘here’s our idea and we’re going with it,'” Allen said. Whitacre hopes parents will appreciate the educational benefit the extra planning time will bring. She said the district has to make decisions based on educational needs, rather than parent convenience.”It’s a fuzzy line between being teachers and taking care of kids while their parents are at work. We want to do both. But the teaching has to be the priority,” she said.Eben Harrell’s e-mail is email@example.com
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The waitlist for infant childcare is currently 50 deep in Aspen, and babies who haven’t been conceived or born yet are on some of those lists. Aspen City Council is attempting to find solutions to address the crisis.