Childcare conflicts with class scheduling

Evening classes cause concern for some parents as they are forced to make tough decisions around education and their families

Carli Berry, Contributor Ω

Evening classes are posing a problem to some single parents who attend TRU. With on-campus daycare hours only extending from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., some parents have no choice but to drop classes to take care of their children.

Darryl Carlyle-Moses, chair of the geography department at TRU, has had students visit him expressing concerns over the university daycare hours and the conflicting evening class times.

“The issue has not been around for years. This is the first year the new scheduling policy has been in place. I have heard the complaints in the hallways and a couple of times in the class room. I am not sure how many students are impacted,” Carlyle-Moses said in an email.

“It’s a form of discrimination,” Carlyle-Moses said. “Parents can’t take these classes because the daycares don’t run.”

Carlyle-Moses suggested that certain three-hour classes, especially those required for a degree, be moved to a different time slot.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if the three hour classes could start at 1:30 to give people time to pick up their kids? Ideally even 12:30 to have those three hour classes,” Carlyle-Moses said.

TRU student Amanda Hill sits with her sons, three-year-old Jackson (right) and five-year-old Jude (left). Carli Berry/The Omega

TRU student Amanda Hill sits with her sons, three-year-old Jackson (right) and five-year-old Jude (left). Carli Berry/The Omega

Amanda Hill is a working single mother in the bachelor of education program with two children, who attend a daycare and preschool in Brock. One of Hill’s previous evening classes ended at 5:15, so she had to leave her evening class 15 minutes early to pick up her children or she’d suffer a late pick up charge of $15 for every 15 minutes she is late.

“I’m losing a half an hour a week in a two-and-a-half-hour class,” Hill said. She had to drop her class due to the scheduling conflict.

“I didn’t even try for the on-campus daycare,” Hill said. “I heard it was too backlogged.”

Although the campus daycare does prioritize spaces for students and faculty at the university, it only offers 24 spaces for children under three and 50 spaces for children three to five.

In an email, Hill said “[the campus] rates are actually $100 more than the licensed daycare that I use for my son every day, so even if I did get a spot with the one on campus, it would cost me much more than the time and gas it takes to get across town.”

Other daycares in Kamloops cost between $500 to $700 a month for toddlers. The Cariboo Child Care Society costs $824 per month for a toddler.

Marian Hardy, executive director of the Cariboo Child Care Society, defended the higher rates.

“It depends who you are comparing us to. Every year we do comparisons to like-sized daycares,” Hardy said. “We’re a group-licensed daycare. There are family-licensed daycares, and there are family non-licensed daycares, so it’s a bit like comparing apples and pears.”

“We’re also one of the few daycares that still provides meals,” Hardy said.

The conflict between childcare and class scheduling is causing Hill to sacrifice the education she would like to pursue because of the conflict.

“There are a couple classes I would like to take like in the poli-science department, but I can’t since they are only offered in the evenings. It’s frustrating. I feel like I have to take courses I don’t want to take. There should be more flexibility [with the scheduling].”

Hill isn’t the only student-parent affected by the class scheduling. Cassandra Schifferns is a third-year nursing student who has resorted to bringing her eight-year-old daughter with her to evening classes.

“I have been lucky the past couple years and haven’t had too many evening classes, Schifferns said via Facebook. “And if I need to, I am comfortable in bringing her to my classes. The instructors are mostly very understanding.”

The daycare’s fees are set to increase five per cent in July 2014.

“It was part of our long term plan. We are non-profit and we’re operated by a board of directors and we were reluctant, but then there comes a time where you realize the staff needs to be paid, the cost of living needs to be paid, so we came up with a three-year plan,” Hardy said.

Hardy did offer a possible solution to the scheduling conflict for student-parents.

“What could work is if someone in the student services, like the wellness department or the union, could organize a co-op system for students,” she said, adding that when she was at a facility in Whistler before joining the TRU centre, “we had a trial period where we tried to do seven days a week, 12-hour days, and it was so bad we had to stop after three months because it wasn’t good for the staff or for the children.”

“There’s a lot of families on campus now, so I think that should be part of the university’s responsibilities to help assist,” Hardy added.

Angelique Saweczko, the associate vice-president strategic enrolment and university registrar at TRU, is responsible for overseeing the scheduling of courses on campus.

Saweczko said that there are a number of factors that affect the scheduling of courses, including instructor availability, room requirements, room use, or if a program involves a required practicum.

“The way we do scheduling is changing right now,” Saweczko said.

The registrar will be implementing new software that will do the course scheduling. The new software will be programmed with all the rules and requirements of each class. This will make it easier to schedule classes and meet the needs of the students. A change that might take place in the scheduling is the shift between daytime and evening schedules. By starting the evening classes earlier and making little shifts in the schedule this may help some of the students with scheduling conflicts, according to Saweczko.

Until a solution is found, student-parents like Hill and Schifferns are forced to make tough decisions about prioritizing education or parenthood while pursuing their post-secondary education at TRU.


Editor’s note:
Edited March 6, 2014 to clarify that the “seven days a week, 12-hour days” trial Hardy referred to was at a Whistler facility, not the TRU centre.