News in Coverage Area

State Cracks Down on Municipal Summer Camps. No Camp Unless Kindergarten Completed

January 12, 2017

Last night we were researching local summer camps for our not-yet-in-kindergarten five year old. Every municipal run camp started for those who were five years old and had completed kindergarten. Privately run camps had programs for younger kids. We wondered why this was.

We asked around today and did research online. What we learned is that the Commonwealth is now enforcing a law that requires municipalities that run these type programs to obtain a daycare license if they accept children who haven't completed kindergarten.

TheReporterOnline.com published an article about the issue on how this was impacting families in Montgomery Township. In the article, the legal issue is explained. It reads:

Specifically, Chapter 3270 of the Pennsylvania Child Care Code as enforced by the state Department of Human Services, which sets out rules for school-age programs, requires that any facility or program caring for seven or more children who are below school age must be a certified day care center. That portion of the code was adopted in 2007, which Gregan said was around the same time Kids U was expanded to allow kids that young.

Becoming a certified day care would have required the township meet “78 pages of rules and regulations — had we known that we were required to be a licensed day care in order to do it, we probably never would’ve expanded the program to include that,” according to Gregan.

“We did, over the years, expand (Kids U) to try to provide an enhanced level of service to residents — unknowingly, not in compliance with the regulations,” Gregan said.

Solicitor Frank Bartle said once the township learned of the age issue, the issue became whether a child who has not started kindergarten could still be considered “of school age,” and his reading of the statutes involved gave definitions of “preschool age,” “young school age” and “older school age.” Bartle said he then contacted state Rep. Todd Stephens to ask if the state legislature would consider a change in the law to allow exemptions for municipal programs like Kids U, and the answer was ‘not likely.’

“My interpretation was in fact correct, and this had been the result of some study on their part, and he thought it was unlikely to be changed,” Bartle said.

“We did everything that we could do to try to look for some reason as to why there should be an exception, but unfortunately it just doesn’t exist in the law,” he said.

There is an effort to to change the law. We are told that representatives of municipalities are meeting with the Department of Human Services. A parent who submitted a letter that will be taken to the meeting sent MoreThanTheCurve.com the below text of the letter:

I am writing in regards to the recent changes of 55 PA Code section 327055.  These changes no longer allow 2 of my children to attend a camp, where they have spent the past 3 summers.  We used the Whitemarsh Township summer camp program for 3-5 year old children.  They run a great program, have wonderful counselors  and most importantly, it was a very affordable option for full-time, middle class,  working parents.

My 5 year old daughter could have gone to kindergarten this past September.  She made the cutoff for Colonial School District, but she would have turned 5 on the first day of kindergarten.  We choose to keep her in pre-school for one more year, and because of this decision and the recent changes to the prior mentioned code, we have very limited options for summertime care, for her and our youngest daughter. Our options consist of hiring a babysitter, but then our children won’t have the opportunity and exercise that a camp program provides.  Another option is a daycare, but in our area, most daycares are on a waitlist.   Another option is to use a privately run camp, but the costs are triple, if not quadruple, the amount that we paid through the township program, so that isn’t really much of an option at all.

When these changes were made, what consideration was given to the parents that used these camp programs that catered to 3 to 5 year old children?  When the government decides to limit an entities ability to provide to their citizens, was any thought given to what other options we have? Or are we just left to scramble and stress over the fact that a reasonable child care solution is just not available anymore and good luck figuring it out?

Please let me know if there any work arounds that are possible that would allow my 4 year old and 5 year old to attend Whitemarsh Township’s camp program.  Or provide what other, economical alternative you considered, when taking this opportunity away from my family.

The Greater Plymouth Community Center is going to be participating in the meeting in Harrisburg. You can drop a signed letter off there. You can also contact your representatives in Harrisburg. You can find out who your specific representatives are by clicking here.