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Education

New California law opens aftercare programs to more transitional kindergartners

Kids work with a teacher at a SAY San Diego after school program in this undated photo.
Courtesy of SAY San Diego
Kids work with a teacher at a SAY San Diego after school program in this undated photo.

A new California law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom late Tuesday will fix a gap in care for kids younger than 4 years and 9 months attending transitional kindergarten (TK) programs.

Although the state has been expanding its TK program so that all 4-year-olds can attend by 2025, aftercare programs weren’t licensed to care for children younger than 4 years and 9 months.

Since many schools get out at 2 p.m. and noon on Wednesdays, that was a problem for working parents like Sara LaPietra, whose son Teddy is 4 years and 8 months old and is a transitional kindergartner.

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“Initially, we were told that they had new after-school care classrooms coming and that they would be up and running by the first day of school, which was such great news,” LaPietra said.

LaPietra then received some bad news. Teddy couldn’t go to aftercare for a month because he wasn't old enough. His school released him every day at noon for the first two weeks, which was a lot of time for the LaPietras to cover.

“So we just scrambled and found a babysitter off of Facebook to help for some of the days,” she said. “And other days, we just juggled having a 4-year-old in the house while we did our work for five hours a day.

Effective immediately, the Education Omnibus Bill changes state health and safety codes to allow younger kids to enroll in aftercare programs. Now that Newsom has signed the law, kids like Teddy can go to aftercare.

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Aftercare programs like SAY San Diego are grateful for the change, according to Nancy Gannon Hornberger, the CEO of SAY San Diego.

“It means that 15% of the existing spots within existing sites can potentially be available for TK-ers in the coming weeks and months, across many providers of child care,” she said. “This is a boost for young children’s socio-emotional, creative, and cognitive development, and a boost for parents who need child care support.”

The law is a relief for working parents, but Courtney Baltiyskyy, the vice president of advocacy for the San Diego YMCA, said it should have been approved before school started.

“This is a situation that potentially could have been avoided, so it didn’t add to that toxic stress that so many households are experiencing,” she said.

That kind of stress has been a constant presence in the LaPietra household for the first two weeks of school.

“It kind of feels like the first few months of the pandemic where you're just kind of forced to juggle everything and handle everything on your own and left to kind of fend for yourself,” LaPietra said.

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