Every fall, you’ll likely find them on your newsfeeds: memes of moms and dads celebrating the start of the new school year. They’re smiling ear-to-ear while shopping for pencils and protractors or lounging in the pool with a cocktail while their children look on, wearing backpacks and frowns. The not-so-subtle messaging here is, “Hooray! The kids are finally out of the house! Life will be so much easier now.” But not everyone shares such joyful sentiments, particularly not working parents who struggle each school year to stay on top of school events, extracurricular activities and childcare while holding down demanding jobs. The good news is that schools and governments around the country are making changes to accommodate and relieve some of the stress working parents face each day. As many will attest, the progress isn’t uniform: initiatives available for years at some schools are just making their way to others now. But we’ll take the wins where we can get them! Here are six worth mentioning.
More Full-Day Kindergarten
When it comes to finding childcare, parents of kindergarten-age children have it rough: too many only have access to half-day kindergarten programs or have to pay to put their children in full-day programs. That’s steadily changing, with more than a dozen states requiring public school districts to offer full-day kindergarten. This year, Colorado became the latest state to provide funding for free, full-day kindergarten (though, in contrast to states such as West Virginia, it is not mandating that all districts offer it and parents can still send their children for half-day sessions if they so choose, according to the Denver Post) Andi Perry, a mother of four in Castle Pines, Colorado, is thrilled with the change. Andi, who works at a local preschool, is a strong believer in the educational benefits of full-day kindergarten, but also notes that being able to send her youngest child to a full-day program for free will be a huge boon to the family budget—a savings of about $5,000 for the year. “It’s like getting a raise,” she said.
Care During School Holidays
It’s a sad reality of adulthood: Kids will almost always have more vacation days than you do. But if you don’t have the day off when your children do, where do you send them? For some lucky parents, it’s a no-brainer—their school districts organize school’s out camps, saving parents the hassle of coordinating babysitting, begging for playdates with or researching private camp options. A school district in Glen Rock, New Jersey, is one of the latest to adopt such a program, with the district’s community school partnering with a youth sports company this year to host a sports-focused camp. The camp, which charges a daily fee, will run during teacher convention days and certain holidays at one of Glen Rock’s elementary schools. Community school director Allison De Meulder believes the camp will offer peace of mind to working parents. “It’s an organized program. You know they’re going to be watched, so you can go to work and do what you need to,” she said.
Additional After-School Care Options
Let’s say you’re fortunate enough to send your child to a school that offers after-school care…only to learn that the program is at capacity and there’s no room for your kid. It’s an all-too-familiar nightmare, but fast-acting municipal officials managed to offer relief to working parents in Wilton, Connecticut. The town’s first selectwoman and parks and recreation department announced an after-school program to serve the many students shut out of the local school district’s after-care program this year. “The swiftness of the response was amazing,” said Melissa Fox, a Wilton mother of two who works as a strategy consultant. “There was a brief period of collective panic when the at-school program filled up, followed by incredible relief when the town stepped in and said, ‘We’re on it.'”
Using Apps for Better Communication
Working parents don’t have time to read long, bulky emails—and they definitely don’t have the patience to hunt for paper notes crumpled in backpacks. Ryan Both, a social studies teacher at a middle school in Endwell, New York, uses an app that organizes information on weekly class assignments and more into a newsletter that can be texted to parents (or emailed if they prefer). In contrast to long, bulky emails, it’s easy for working parents—and any parents, really—to skim the mobile-friendly newsletters on their phones when they’re on the go. Though Ryan started using the app a couple of years ago, he said that this year he’s including more information than ever before, such as class notes and handouts. “Knowing how busy families are, this is just another way for parents to have digital resources to help their children academically,” he said.
Videoconferencing for Parent-Teacher Meetings
You want to meet with your child’s teacher face-to-face, but your work schedule won’t allow for it. What do you do? Some school districts offer parents the next best thing: video-conferencing. Jenielle Navarro, a Spanish teacher at East Orange Campus High School in Bloomfield, New Jersey, has taken advantage of the option to accommodate busy parents since her school began promoting it last year. “There are many immigrant parents where I work and they work long hours,” Jenielle said. “Parents are grateful for the opportunity.” Here’s hoping that success stories like the ones above inspire more schools to catch up—and help more working parents catch their breath.