But the latchkey program is facing competition from other agencies, like the city’s Parks and Recreation Department and the Boys and Girls Club, which offer services for $110 to $115 per month, while the district’s program costs $75 per week, Bemel said. And the Proposition 49-funded After School Enrichment and Safety program accommodates latchkey families free of charge, she added.
“It’s difficult to operate the program, and we have other programs we are competing with,” she said.
In spite of the stiff competition, plenty of children still need child care programs, but the number of children eligible for state subsidies, which eases funding pressure, is on the decline, officials said.
“When I originally started the latchkey program, I had 121 subsidized children,” she said. “Today we have 23. So that really tells you.”
School board members asked district staffers to seek information on how to make the program more cost-effective, especially in light of upcoming budget discussions.
“We have a demand,” board Vice President Larry Applebaum said. “And if we could make a rational determination that at some point there is a way to do this, where we could increase capacity while still covering the cost, it would be worthwhile to do that.”
The board discussed the possibility of adding portable classrooms or using existing space as it becomes available. But each campus poses its own set of challenges to augment capacity for latchkey programs, Deputy Supt. Joel Shapiro said.
Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School, for instance, has little space to accommodate additional facilities, he said.
“Play space is minimal in comparison to the kids they serve,” he said. “So it would be difficult to add portables.”
There are only a handful of sites where it would make sense to consider adding space based on the amount of children on current waiting lists for those locations, Applebaum said. Those sites are Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, Robert Louis Stevenson and Joaquin Miller elementary schools, he said.
At the board meeting Thursday, trustees opted to seek out more information and take up the issue again during budget talks.
“We need to take a creative look at what we can do to keep the cost down while still providing the services that parents need,” board President Debbie Kukta said.