By Ginna Parsons
TUPELO – While some Mississippi parents may pack up their kids next summer and head to the Gulf Coast for the first two weeks of August, others will have to stay at home and pony up for additional child care.
A new law the Legislature passed last year prohibits the state’s public schools from starting any earlier than the third Monday in August, beginning in the 2014-15 school year.
At CASA, the Church After School Association, the executive director said keeping kids an extra two weeks in the summer program won’t be a problem.
“Whenever school gets out, we open in some form or fashion,” April Nunnelee said. “We go from an after-school program to a summer camp. This summer, school got out on Wednesday and we has summer CASA on Thursday. We take care of them until Tupelo city schools go back.”
The cost of the extra care is where the problem arises.
Summer CASA is $90 a week for the first child and $68 a week for additional child.
“For a family with three kids, that’s an extra $452 for two weeks,” Nunnelee said. “That’s a whole lot of money.”
At First Friends Child Care, owner Robbie Parker said the business is structured for after-school care and summer care. After-school care is $55 a week and the summer day camp program is $85 per week.
“We hate it for the parents,” Parker said. “It’s going to put a hardship on them to have to pay for two extra weeks of child care.”
Kim Sistrunk, a mother of two who works for the Department of Mental Health, said her family will definitely feel the pinch next summer.
“I’ll have two kids at First Friends for summer day care,” she said. “It’s not a matter of not doing it – we’ll just have to shuffle things around in the budget.”
Sistrunk said the additional $320 she’ll pay for the two weeks in early August – plus extra fees for supplies and field trips – will have to come from somewhere.
“It will affect how much we’ll spend on vacation, school supplies and back-to-school clothing,” she said. “It will be a matter of looking at the budget and carving things out. We’ll probably shorten our summer vacation by a day to save on a hotel room.”
That’s exactly what the legislators from the Gulf Coast who pushed for the new law don’t want to hear – they wanted the two extra weeks to draw tourism to their area.
“We won’t be taking any extra vacation time,” Sistrunk said. “Just the opposite, in fact. We’ll just have to look at ways to buy things earlier – space things out. The kids won’t go without. But my husband and I probably will.”