At approximately 8am today, a form will appear on the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools website for elementary school after-care. The school district notes, “Space in the program is very limited and enrollment is “first come, first served.”

May the odds be ever in your favor.

Last year, the spots for aftercare were taken within minutes. The form dropped early. Some people designed programs to fill out the PDF form immediately and ship it back. (These are commonly used for Taylor Swift tickets.) If you happened to be working at 8am, or don’t have a computer at home, or happen to be driving back from dropping your kids off at school at 8am, or heading to work, or getting other kids ready for school, or you use a mobile device for your Internet usage, or you don’t speak English/Spanish as your first language, then you missed out on aftercare, which is the most affordable option in our area.

There has to be a better and more equitable way.

I know there aren’t enough spots. Such is life for working parents and caregivers in the United States in 2024. But the current practice is antiquated and favors two parent/caregiver households who can park someone in front of a computer at 5am to refresh a website constantly.

Currently, the district sets dual language up as a lottery. If you get your application in by a certain date – online or in person at Lincoln Center – you’re in the pool. That’s great. That levels the playing field. I applied two years ago – we didn’t get in. Applied again this year with a second kid – we’ll see.

For now, Slots for Aftercare open at 8am. May Your Aim Be As True As Your Heart Is Pure. (Make sure you have your driver’s license number, physician and dentist, their numbers, your emergency contact numbers and any allergies ready and available.)

(And please join me in writing to [email protected] to request a consideration of a different approach for next year.)

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Melody Kramer is a Peabody-award winning journalist whose work has appeared on NPR and member stations around the country, as well as in publications ranging from National Geographic to Esquire Magazine....