Rocklin considers passing child care to school district

Working parents of children in Rocklin schools have been entrusting their kids to the city’s child care programs since the 1980s, but now the city says the school district might be a better fit to run them.

At its Tuesday meeting, the Rocklin City Council will start discussions on transferring the ownership of Club Rocklin, a before- and after-school program, and the city’s pre-kindergarten day care program, to the Rocklin Unified School District and the Rocklin Educational Excellence Foundation.

Leslie Woodman, special projects manager for the city, said increases in expectations for the program and in oversight by the state, not budget issues, have caused the city to start seeking alternative ownership for the 500-student programs operated on all 11 Rocklin elementary school campuses. The revenue and expenditures for Club Rocklin and the preschool are about equal, she said, at approximately $1.95 million.

“The thought is that the school district is a better fit to address the needs of the children and parents involved in the program,” she said. “Because that’s what they do.”

RUSD employees are better trained in supporting children and handling child-related issues than a municipality, she added.

But some parents of students in the program said the staff of Club Rocklin does a great job looking after their kids.

“Everyone there is so kind, and they give so much care and attention,” said Courtney Brittain, whose daughter is a kindergartner in the program at Sunset Ranch Elementary School. Brittain, 26, is a single parent with two children. She said if the program is still around next year she will be sending her son as well.

“Having the extra help is very vital for full-time working parents,” Brittain said. “I’m angry this is even a discussion, to change it or take it away.”

Brittain started a petition on that had 93 supporters on Monday.

The city’s other options include leaving the program as is, finding another party to take it over or eliminating it completely, although Woodman said the program will definitely be around next year.

“There have been misunderstandings about whether or not the program will be around next year,” she said, adding that the intent of the discussions is not to get rid of the program.

If all parties agree, the transition would occur at the beginning of the 2015-16 school year.

Parents were informed of the potential transition by a short email from the school district. Alyssa Hultman said she first found out from an employee at Sierra Elementary School’s Club Rocklin when she arrived to pick up her two sons. Hultman, 29, is also a single mother who works full time.

Her older son is in the third grade and has attention deficit disorder, which she said has made finding adequate child care difficult. The Club Rocklin employees know how to take care of him.

“He came home in great spirits every day,” Hultman said. “I can’t believe what a difference it made in his attitude.”

She has tried other child care options but ended up bringing her kids back to Club Rocklin, where an employee is helping Hultman document and handle changes in her son’s behavior.

“I never got that feedback from any other place,” she said.

Skott Hutton, coordinator of family and community engagement for RUSD, said that if the district takes over the program, it will be committed to the same kind of quality services parents are accustomed to.

“Parents are very satisfied with the service they’re getting,” he said. “We would be committed to providing the same kind of quality, safety and reliability through the transition.”

The district would partner with the Rocklin Educational Excellence Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works to raise money to support districtwide initiatives. REEF Chairman Tom DeLapp also emphasized that Club Rocklin would be the same, if not an improved, service under the direction of his organization.

“A program that provides before- and after-school care and support is an important complement to the rigorous education offered in Rocklin schools,” he said.

REEF is a member of the California Consortium of Education Foundations, a statewide group of localized education foundations. DeLapp said lots of the foundations in the consortium run programs like this.

“Conceptually, this looks like a good match for us,” DeLapp said. “We’re knowledgeable enough to be able to do this.”

His board has yet to do an analysis or make any decisions regarding Club Rocklin, and DeLapp said the public conversation seems premature.

Woodman, Hutton and DeLapp all said the idea of the transition is still in its infancy and that no decisions have been made.

At the Tuesday meeting, the council will review a staff report put together by the city manager’s office on the options for the future of the program, and the public will be allowed to comment.

Call The Bee’s Ellen Garrison at (916) 321-1006.