This past week has been pretty stressful. In fact, the whole month has been kind of crazy, but in the past seven days we've hit some serious lows. A lot of it has to do with work, but a bigger part is related to childcare. I've contemplated not blogging about this since I've already spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to come to terms with the issue this week, but ultimately it's part of our childcare journey that started here and then went here and finally ended here. I also know that a few of our friends were thinking of sending their kids to Kale's school because we go on and on about how great it is all the time and this post is probably the easiest way to spread the word about what has happened.
Last Friday morning when I was nursing Kale at 5am, I reached over and checked my email on my phone. There was an email from the owner of Kale's school, which is not unusual since she often sends little updates and whatnot. But this email? This email was different. This email explained (in a very indirect and nonchalant way) that she didn't budget well and in order to continue, prices needed to be adjusted - effective January 1st.
At this point I'm already freaking out because Kris and I already struggle to pay for Kale's school. We are literally just making ends meet around here and the thought of having to pay an extra $10 was causing me to panic.
But then I scrolled down and saw the increase. And then I assumed I was just dreaming. And so I excited my email account and logged in and re-read the email and the number was still the same.
Oh no - this is not the total. This is the increase. The total was now $820. For a half-day program.
Effective January 1st.
As soon as the initial shock wore off and I could breath again, I started to cry. I knew there was NO WAY we could afford this increase and the thought of having to pull Kale from his class was devastating. He absolutely loves the program, his teachers and his friends. He's been thriving at this school and we were even considering putting him in full day in September.
And then there was the whole issue of there being nowhere else to send him. Childcare spaces in our town are seriously scarce and I didn't want to go back to a nanny since I know how much he loves being with other kids. Oh, and the other Montessori school in town is full. Of course.
If I didn't have to get to work that morning, I would have gone straight to the owners class and lost my mind. Instead I had to pull myself together and focus on an important meeting and just try to get through the day.
I wasn't sure how other parents were feeling, but worried that Kris and I were the only one's that couldn't afford the increase. I took a chance and emailed the other parents and was reassured at least that they were all just as upset and worried about how they would pay. We decided to set up a meeting with the owner to get some more answers and to see if she was open to any solutions.
There's no point in hashing out the details, but basically the owner took zero responsibility for the financial position she's put herself in. She's known for months that the school is running at a deficit, but didn't think at any point that she should warn us. She didn't once say sorry. She didn't admit that she messed up. At one point she even suggested that she could understand if we left because we weren't "committed" to Montessori.
As parents, we asked questions. We offered solutions to consider. We talked it out and tried to find a solution that worked for all of us. But at the end of the meeting, we still didn't know what we were going to do.
If you think we were seething mad and upset and irate, you're totally right. But here's the kicker. A couple days later I sent her an email asking if there was something Kris and I could buy for the classroom for Christmas, rather than buying individual gifts for the teachers and Kale's classmates. As much as we were upset with the owner, we have been so pleased with the Kale's teacher and the program they run that we still wanted to say thank you. We gave her a modest price range and asked her to give us some suggestions about things needed in the classroom.
She responded by saying that our offer was much too generous to accept, but if we wanted to give a donation she would take it.
............................... I can't make that up. Read between the lines.
And then? Then she wrote us an email saying that she could offer the program for three hours without lunch, for only an increase of $60. This was her solution. A quick calculation told me that she was asking us to may MORE hourly for a three hour program that didn't include lunch, than the current four hour program that includes lunch - and this was based on the price with the $170 increase (I know, you're probably lost by now, and honestly, it's so freaking insane that it only BARELY makes sense - in that it makes no sense at all).
Among the parents, we figured out a solution that works for everyone. We spread our original deposit out over the next six months and pay $70 extra a month to keep the program exactly as it is. She did tell us this was an option, but we've emailed her to tell her this was our decision and have not heard anything back. I can only assume that everything is fine and that's she just annoyed that we're smarter than her (it clearly does not take much).
All of the parents, including us, just want to make it to the end of the school year. Next year none of us will be returning, which is sad because Kale really does love his teachers so much and I was hoping he could stay there for years and years. The good news is that all of us are hoping to get into the other Montessori school and so they'll still be able to see their friends.
Next year will be a new challenge, since the other Montessori school is expensive since it only offers a full day program for Kale's age group. I'd love to say we'll deal with it when the time comes, but they start taking applications in January.....
I had NO IDEA that childcare was going to be such a challenge.