Fraser parent speaks out about new Latchkey program rates

By: Maria Allard | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published August 28, 2012

FRASER — Fraser Public Schools parent Bob Chapp addressed school officials during a school board meeting Aug. 20 about the new Latchkey program pay structure.

School officials changed the fee structure from an hourly rate to a flat fee for the 2012-2013 school year, which will greatly increase Chapp’s payment.

Chapp and his wife work full time and have utilized Latchkey for their two daughters, who enter second- and fifth-grade this fall at Edison Elementary. In past years, the Chapps paid $3.50 per hour for the first child and $3.25 per hour for the second child. Both students attended Latchkey for 45 minutes in the morning and after school.

“That hourly charge was billed in 15-minute increments,” Chapp said, adding a discount was offered for additional children. “It was a reasonable price.”

For the morning session, parents will now pay a flat rate of $5 per child. The morning session is offered from 7-8:40 a.m. A flat fee of $7 per child was implemented for the afternoon Latchkey program. The afternoon session is offered from 3:30-6 p.m.

Under last year’s pricing, Chapped said he paid $14 per day on average. He said with the new rates, he would pay an added $10 per day, which amounts to an increase of $200 per month. He believes the new rates are “a steep increase for Fraser families to take on unexpectedly.”

“Why am I paying for 2-1/2 hours when I’m only using 45 minutes?” the working father wanted to know.

Chapp is against the afternoon pricing cost and believes there should be a split in the flat rate for the afternoon session. He’s also not happy the multiple child discount rate is no longer available.

The new flat fee structure was implemented recently after school officials conducted a study of Latchkey, which determined that changing from an hourly rate to a flat fee would provide families using the district’s Latchkey a cost savings.

“Essentially, they reviewed our program design, evaluated it and compared it to other districts,” said Nicole Malak, FPS community relations coordinator. “They also investigated operational efficiencies.”

With a flat rate, “the majority of families who use (Latchkey) more than two hours a day will (see) a decrease in cost,” Malak said. She also said “very few families actually use” the second child discount in the program.

The rate change did not come before the school board for approval.

Malak also said the study the administrators conducted included a look at how Fraser can further develop Latchkey.

“We want to develop an afternoon program that enhances the educational experience,” she said. That could be through computer devices, homework assignments, crafts and healthy snacks.

Though Chapp said he will continue to use Latchkey in the morning before school, he will pull his girls out of the afternoon program and seek help from family and friends.

“I can’t afford it, quite honestly,” he said. “I’m disappointed.”

In light of the situation, Chapp said he is “not trying to be a rabble rouser.” He’s also very happy with the Latchkey program overall, describing it as “very good and safe.”

“I am a huge supporter of Fraser schools,” he said. “They are an amazing school district. I do support the schools. I think Fraser schools has always been fair. My hope is they review it and come up with a compromise.”

“Administration will be looking into his concerns,” Malak said.

At press time, Chapp said he planned to again address the issue at the Sept. 10 school board meeting.

According to Malak, Latchkey is offered at all of the district’s elementary schools.