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Sioux City Area Parents Put in a Pinch After Popular Before-and-After School Program Faces Problems

Thousands of students returned to class today in Sioux City. But issues facing an after-school program took the excitement out of the milestone for some families in the metro area. Siouxland Public Media’s Sheila Brummer explains.

“I have always been happy with their service.”

For years, this Sioux City mother, who doesn’t feel comfortable using her name or real voice, sent her two children to Beyond the Bell.”

“My husband called a couple of days prior just to make sure everything was set up. There was no space for them.”

This parent isn’t alone. Some took to social media to say they received an email the afternoon before the start of school to say their youngsters were put on a waitlist.

“I think the biggest thing is the lack of communication. It’s been very, very frustrating.

“We understand the frustrations.”

Jenna Andrews, program director for Beyond the Bell, says the program, like other businesses across the country, feels the pinch of short-staffing.

Beyond the Bell Director Jenna Andrews
Facebook/Beyond the Bell
Beyond the Bell Director Jenna Andrews

“The great resignation that happened last year. We just saw kind of a wave where the workforce is really depleting.”

Andrews says Beyond the Bell increased wages and incentives to try and attract staff for 25 locations in Sioux City and South Sioux City for before and after school care.

“But it is still just really tough to get people in here.”

Andrews disclosed Beyond the Bell usually employs between 75 and 80 part-time workers. They need about a third more to cover a total of 1,200 students. That means a few hundred ended up on a waiting list.

“We’re still trying to pull people in and do those interviews, but then we need to take into account, if they’re new, we have to train them before we can just people them out at the sites and things like that. So, that takes a bit of time.”

To address the lapse in updating parents, Andrews points to a new online enrollment process as another problem.

“It has given us a few extra hiccups to work around. We just reached out to the software company to say parents aren't getting emails, and it’s really backing things up.”

The mother who talked to Siouxland Public Media did come up with a backup plan but worries that others aren't as lucky.

“I’m very fortunate. My job is very flexible. And, I’m able to work from home some days. And, so I can go and pick up the kids. It’s not ideal, but I can make that work, and we have some family friends that are going to step in and help when I’m not able to go pick up the kids after school. But there are a lot of people who don’t have that option.”

Jenna Andrews says besides reducing capacity, Beyond the Bell suspended services for a few schools until they hire and train more employees.

“We are trying our hardest.”

The schools include the Dual Language Academy and Sacred Heart with Bishop Heelan Schools and East Middle and early morning services for Clark Elementary in the Sioux City Community School District.

People interested in applying for an open position can check out Beyond the Bell’s website for more information.

Social media post from Beyond the Bell
Social media post from Beyond the Bell