Solana Beach alters fee structure for toddler and preschool programs

By Marsha Sutton

Senior Education Writer

The Solana Beach School District (SBSD) raised fees for its Child Development Center at its Aug. 11 board meeting, for its toddler and preschool programs. Unchanged is the cost of programs for elementary school-age children, which includes before-school, after-school, minimum-day, holiday and summer care.

To remain self supporting, the district must increase CDC fees to counter rising costs, according to the board report, which estimated that the new fees will generate between $101,000 and $194,000 annually in additional income.

SBSD superintendent Leslie Fausset said the old system was cumbersome because each family’s bills were calculated individually based on hourly and daily rates and each child’s irregular drop-in hours.

“We need to know resources for staffing, and too much flexibility becomes a problem,” Fausset said. “We needed to wipe the slate clean and find a new system that’s simpler.”

The new system, she said, standardizes costs and streamlines accounting procedures by changing from a daily to a monthly fee structure, which was determined after comparing fees charged by other competitive preschools, including Del Mar Hills Nursery, Santa Fe Montessori, Carmel Valley Montessori, Notre Dame Academy, KinderCare Del Mar, The Learning Tree, Aspirations and Solana Beach Presbyterian.

The switch from a daily to a monthly structure makes cost comparisons difficult, Fausset acknowledged. Comparisons are further complicated by the decision to increase the programs for half-days by 30 minutes, either starting a half-hour earlier or ending a half-hour later.

Effective this September, the new monthly cost for toddlers ranges from $340 to $480 for Tuesday/Thursday, $520 to $710 Monday/Wednesday/Friday, and $835 to $1160 for five days per week – all depending upon whether the program runs from 8:30 a.m. to noon, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., or 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

For preschool, the new monthly costs will range from $315 to $395 for Tuesday/Thursday, $440 to $595 Monday/Wednesday/Friday, and $790 to $990 for five days per week — depending upon whether the program runs from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., or 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Toddlers are 18 to 36 months old, and preschoolers are ages 3 to 5. The CDC is licensed for 180 children — 109 will continue on from last year, and 77 new students are on the list to be enrolled, Fausset said.

Comparisons between the old and new rates show that some options will increase CDC income up to 19 percent while other options actually decrease income. Fausset said the predicted increases in revenue are a best-guess estimate based on historical usage by families.

The district has communicated the proposed changes with families and has received no negative feedback, she said.

The new rates apply to new, incoming families this fall but do not apply to existing families in the preschool program or until the children transition from the toddler to the preschool program.

Fausset said the CDC programs are not restricted to families residing within Solana Beach School District boundaries.

School #7

In other news, the Solana Beach School District is moving forward on plans for School #7 in Pacific Highlands Ranch, after approval by the school board at its June 28 meeting to purchase 10 acres of land from Pardee Homes that was set aside for the district in 1997.

The site is located adjacent to a five-acre park owned by the city of San Diego, north of Carmel Valley Road and east of Pacific Highlands Ranch Parkway.

Under the terms of the agreement, the purchase price will be $806,245 per usable acre or the current appraised value, whichever is less.

The school board also approved entering into a contract with Barnhart Balfour Beatty for pre-construction services for the school, at a cost not to exceed $35,000. These services – which include constructability, modeling, preliminary estimates and value engineering – “are a precursor to a future contract for a construction contract,” according to the board report.

Barnhart was selected after interviews with three school construction firms. The contract ends December 30, 2011.