Jessica Portas 0

No More Top-Down Changes For YMCA Child Care

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Dear Board President of the Walla Walla YMCA,

Katie Svilich has done a great job developing the Little Owls Preschool Program since she's been with Walla Walla YMCA centering the program around the Y's Core Values of caring, honesty, respect, and responsibility. Many of us have had children in Little Owls for several years and it has been a one of, if not the most, fantastic and sought-after programs in the Walla Walla area since Katie has been running it. It has even had a waiting list of families for the program each year as a mark of its popularity.

We, the families of Little Owls program participants, are frustrated with the new and impending changes and regulations being imposed on us and the teachers our children love. We feel like these changes prevent an environment where play and learning are actively cultivated together, restrict valuable quality time teachers should be spending with children where they are the focus rather than ticking boxes, and put unnecessary pressure on both families and teachers to meet arbitrary and unnecessary regulations. In addition, no families were consulted before any of these changes were implemented, and they do affect us and our children. In fact, we worry these changes are making families uncomfortable and pushing away.

These changes are making this program less desirable and taking away much of what we love about Little Owls: incredible and loving staff who can spend quality time with the children in the program, a pre-K program that does a phenomenal job of preparing children for school without feeling like school, and a happy, play-based environment that families feel comfortable in.

We want to see the following implemented:

- Voices of the staff and parents shall be heard and considered for any and all future changes to Little Owls and other childcare programs. We petition to have staff and parent representatives on a Child Care steering committee rather than blind top-down changes.

- Staff shall be compensated for any courses they're required to take in order to meet certain state requirements. No staff member should be inconvenienced financially, or have to take introductory courses if they have years of experience simply because of these state regulations which the YMCA needlessly decided to take on.

- No programs shall be added to Little Owls which take children away from the current play-based learning, which require the teachers to spend additional time checking regulations rather than giving the children love and attention, or which discourage diversity within staff and program participants. We realize, it's probably impossible to reverse the changes which have already been made but we don't want to see any additional ones which require focus being taken from our children or which force requirements which hinder socioeconomic diversity within the program. For example, the nutrition requirements which demands staff to check every lunch for specific nutritional components and putting notes in their lunches if any are missing rather than sitting with children enjoying a meal together and creating crucial social relationship-building time and also can impact low-income families who may struggle to provide each require food component.

- The Walla Walla YMCA leadership, including the aforementioned Child Care Steering Committee, shall support staff of Little Owls but advocating and lobbying at the state-level to make remove obstacles for current staff to meet state requirements (for example awarding teachers college credit for time already served in employment), and to make current and upcoming regulations more adaptable and less of an imposition for staff and families.

Little Owls has had many happy families and staff over the last several years and these new changes and this effort to license the program for little reason and little regard for the consequences is unconscionable. We write to you asking that something now be done to mitigate any further movement in the wrong direction for the program and for our children.

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