Parents ponder costly child care after 4-day school week approved

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APACHE JUNCTION, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Parents in Apache Junction are scrambling to figure out how they will pay for the cost of child care now that the district has approved a four-day school week.

"I don't like to leave her alone by herself," said parent Bridget Schuh, whose daughter Tatum is a sixth-grader at Superstition Mountain Elementary School.

Students at that school will face more changes on top of the shorter school week: the board voted to shut down Superstition Mountain Elementary and rezone students for new schools.

"I was hoping this wasn't going to happen," Schuh said.

Schuh hopes to rely on family members to keep an eye on her daughter, but she recognizes that many other families don't have that option.

"Some parents don't have day care. They don't have the money or the funds to take care of that, so what are they going to do with their children?" Schuh asked.

We asked that question of district spokeswoman Dana Hawman.

"The district is already working on putting together a plan that would provide for fifth-day care," Hawman says.
Hawman says administrators recognize that many of the families in Apache Junction do not have a lot of money. The program they provide would still have fees associated with it because the district is cash-strapped as well, but she says they are doing what they can to keep the costs low.

Hawman says the four-day school week will save the district about $150,000. The district is facing a $2.7 million shortfall. Hawman says the decision was only partly a cost-saving measure.

"For us, a big part of it was teacher retention," Hawman said.

Apache Junction has a teacher turnover rate of 30 percent each year. They believe the four-day work week could be an incentive to entice teachers to stay in the district.

Hawman says they still have to figure out the logistics of a longer school day, changes to transportation, and the coordination of athletics programs with neighboring districts on five-day schedules.