Spring Break Is No Picnic for Some Parents

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Not all families can take care of their kids during spring break. Many scramble to find affordable care for them while parents work.

Not all families can take care of their kids during spring break. Many scramble to find affordable care for them while parents work.

When spring break rolls around, kids are delighted to have a vacation from school. But for working parents with limited time off, the holiday can be tough.

Many parents only have two weeks’ vacation from their jobs, said Beth Unverzagt, executive director of OregonASK, a Portland-based nonprofit that addresses issues of out-of-school time.

Parents have to save their vacation time for the summer, for a few days off at Christmas and for the times children are sick, she said. During spring break, they need a place for their children to go.

In Portland, many after-school programs that serve low-income families — such as the 21st Century sites in schools — are closed, she said.

The YMCA and Boys & Girls Clubs are flooded with kids, Unverzagt said. “It’s a time when they have to double up,” she said. They extend their after-school programs to a full day during spring break.

Some children arrive at 7 a.m. and don’t leave until 6 p.m., she said. “It’s a really long day,” she said.

Unverzagt sees a big need for broader planning among cities, counties, school districts and out-of-school time programs to lessen the burden on parents.

“We need to build more coordination into the system,” she said.

School districts give little thought to the problem. “There’s [also] no acknowledgment or concern about what happens on early-release days” when schools close for teacher planning, she said.

Having choices is really important for parents, she said.

For parents who have more time and money, spring break may not be a concern. And some parents are able to piece together adequate child care.

Lynette Rasmussen, executive director of Utah Afterschool Network, said schools in Utah stagger their spring holiday dates. The holiday can range from three days to a week.

“I’ve never heard anyone ask if there’s a need for child care over spring break,” she said.

The parents who take their kids on vacation during spring break probably have professional jobs and can get the week off, said Leah Schilling. She is program administrator for Care About Childcare in Logan, Utah, a branch of the state’s child care resource and referral agency. Her office serves three northern Utah counties — Box Elder, Cache and Rich — that are fairly rural.

But people who work in the manufacturing plants in the area are less able to take a whole week, she said. They likely piece together some child care, she said.

Schilling herself will have her 10-year-old daughter stay a couple of days with Schilling’s sister-in-law. Her daughter will probably stay home by herself several mornings. She may also go to work with her mother at times, because the office is family-friendly, she said.

“Spring break has never been an issue for us up here,” she said. “I think a lot of the kids just roam free.”