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Plano ISD After-School Child Care Woes Highlight Larger Problem For Working Parents

PLANO, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) - The first day of school can be emotional.

For Stefanie Auter, it was compounded by the stress of the pandemic and the struggle to find after-school care.

"Honestly, I came back home and sat down and cried for an hour," she said.

Auter enrolled her 5-year-old son in the PASAR after-school program at Plano ISD's Wyatt Elementary. A week before it was scheduled to start, though, she spotted a Facebook post from another mom, saying it'd been canceled.

"I was like, I'm not sure what you're talking about because I got a confirmation email and my credit card was charged," she said. "Ultimately after about 4 or 5 hours of phone calls, I found out that indeed it had closed."

Plano ISD says a lack of staffing forced it to close eight elementary school sites for its PASAR program and start wait lists for another 38. The district has hired high school students, advertised in community papers and planned a virtual job fair.

Auter was left with little time to find an acceptable alternative and has been, so far, unsuccessful.

"So it's just me, picking him up and then working from home in the afternoon with him," she said.

The shortage of workers, though, has been a problem throughout the child care industry.

"We're all trying to figure out how to hire," said Rickie Lafon, a board member for the Texas Licensed Child Care Association.

Lafon says people aren't taking child care jobs, which generally pay between $9 to $13 an hour.

The result is fewer spots available for children at day cares, which impacts the workforce at large.

"It's putting people in a panic," said Lafon. "People are needing to go back to work and can't because they can't drop their children off."

Auter's grateful her job has given her the flexibility to handle the situation, but she's constantly managing her schedule and worried she'll be judged at work.

"All of my friends are having these difficult conversations with their partners about whose work is more important today, juggling the calendar. That's what my husband are constantly doing," she said.

It's a solution, they know, can only last so long.

"That's bringing up all sorts of questions for me in my career. Is this the time to step back from my career, to work part time. I don't want to do that. I love my job. I love my company," she said.

For information on jobs available with Plano ISD, you can visit their website.

Part-time positions with PASAR pay between $13 to $15 an hour.

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