UPDATE: We recently heard from NextSpace / NextKids that both the co-working space and the daycare will be closing at the end of January 2016. We are very sorry to see this wonderful concept go– director Sarah Shimkunas told that the decision to close was due to financial reasons — we hope to see this concept attempted again in the future.
One of NurtureList’s missions is to improve parents’ access to quality childcare and early education. By helping parents discover and connect with daycare and preschools, NurtureList increases their options. With this in mind, we recently sat down with Sarah Shimkunas, director of NextKids in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco, to explore a new concept that combines co-working with on-site childcare.
Until recently, only a few large companies such as Google, Genentech, or city agencies such as PG&E had co-located daycares, the benefits of which included being able to pick-up or drop-off children near work and having them in close proximity for breastfeeding or even just a visit. Now, there is hope that employees at companies that don’t offer this option can also enjoy on-site childcare, as well. NextSpace is the first co-working space in the Bay Area to offer the concept, but we’re very excitedly awaiting the opening of additional locations. Read our interview with Sarah to learn more about how NextKids works and if it might be a good fit for parents like you!
NL: When was NextKids started? Why?
Sarah: NextKids opened in July of 2013. It was conceived by a working parent as a solution for parents who want to be close to their child during the work day while still getting their work done. If parents have the option of working remotely and flexibly, this is a great solution that eliminates a great deal of the compromise between career and parenthood. On-site childcare frees parents from having to make a choice between working from home and not getting much done due to distractions (even with a nanny, parents tell us it’s difficult to work at home because their children will demand their attention), or dropping their child off at a traditional daycare where they do not get to see their child during the day. Can you have it all? We think so!
NL: How is NextKids different from other daycares?
Sarah: The biggest difference is that parents are on-site, and can go between the childcare space and the adult space at any time. Parents and teachers have more time to connect and bond than they would at traditional drop-off daycares. Parents are already at work, there is no stressful commute, and they can visit their child during the day freely. Parents LOVE that they can take a work break during the day to come back to the kid space and spend some time with their child; but yet, still be able to get their work done in the co-working space and be in the company of other adults, parents and non-parents. This shared experience of trying to grow a business and raise a family at the same time serves as the foundation for a modern “village” in which businesses, parents and children thrive.
NL: Why is NextKids not licensed and what quality aspects are in place?
Sarah: At this pilot location, there is no outdoor play space on-site, and the state licensing agency no longer gives exceptions for that. For outdoor time, we take children via 4-seater buggy to one of several local parks each day (within 6 blocks), weather and circumstances permitting. That said, we do plan for future sites to be licensed.
We are very picky about who we hire – the state of California deems a fully qualified teacher as someone who has taken 4 semester classes in Early Childhood Education or Child Development, and we prefer degrees or many more classes than 4. It takes us several months to hire each teacher. We want only the most qualified, committed and passionate teachers that we can find. Teachers undergo criminal background and reference checks before they start working and we offer Pediatric CPR/First Aid certification classes to keep them current. NextKids also carries standard daycare liability insurance, as any other center.
Finally, NextKids is a very transparent place, literally and figuratively; parents can come in and out as they want and look through the windows to see what the children and teachers are up to. Since we are not a drop-off facility, teachers have that opportunity and time to connect and develop trust with parents. Parents can see what they are doing, how they interact with children and what they do in certain situations at any point of the day. Teachers can communicate promptly with parents about anything that comes up. I would say that at any hour, there is at least 1 parent in one or both of the two rooms. The relationships and trust that have developed between teachers and parents in this setting are far deeper and more trusting than anywhere I’ve worked in my almost 16 years in the field of Early Childhood Education. This is truly an extraordinary community.
NL: Tell us about the co-op component?
Sarah: Each parent contributes 2-4 hours per month in co-op time (2 hours a month for those whose children attend on a part-time schedule and 4 hours a month for full-time schedules). We have an online platform where parents can sign up for various tasks such as helping out in the room, covering teachers’ lunch breaks, making playdough or other things for us at home, helping with weekend maintenance, etc. Parents contribute to the overall operation by getting involved with the program in a meaningful and invested way.
NL: What’s a typical day like for parents with children at NextKids?
Sarah: Parents arrive at the kid space with their child between 8:30-9:30 AM. They are greeted by teachers, sign in at the iPad, get their child’s things settled and then they have time to let teachers know vital information and to chat before walking down the hall to the 2-level workspace. Usually our complimentary coffee or tea is a must at the beginning of the day! Depending on their chosen level of membership, they get settled in the open seating area (cafe), at their dedicated desk, or in their private office. They make use of the conference rooms and phone booths as well as enjoy the rooftop deck.
Teachers use a platform called brightwheel where parents can check and see how their child’s day is going. They can also text parents if they are needed, such as for breastfeeding – and parents can text teachers, too! A few parents like to pick up their children midday for a “lunch date” and then return afterwards; or they join in the community lunch or have spontaneous lunch dates with other members. Parents also take other work breaks during the day with their child in the kid space. Typically, parents start picking up around 4:30 PM and we close by 5:30 PM.
NL: What kind of jobs allow parents to take advantage of NextKids (big/small company/self-employed, tech / non-tech)?
Sarah: All of the above! Essentially, any job where you can work remotely – so we have lawyers, tech folks, graphic designers, writers, people who work in various media, people who work for non-profits – you name it!
NL: Have parents had success getting employers to let them work out of NextSpace / NextKids? What tips do you have for starting that conversation?
Sarah: Most parents have come to us already having an arrangement that allows them to work remotely. We have had a few parents negotiate with their employer(s) to be able to work remotely from our space part-time or all of the time. The biggest thing is to be able to demonstrate that you can still get your work done while not being at a traditional office and to be very clear about the major benefit of a space such as this that ultimately makes you a better, more committed employee – being able to balance work and family life. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know what your employer may be willing to do. As more and more companies embrace family-friendly policies, such as flex work arrangements and paid parental leave, this will become the norm instead of something unusual.
NL: What usually surprises parents about NextKids?
Sarah: Until they’ve been here a while, they don’t always fully realize what a fantastic community we have here – other parents, teachers, and other kids. Parents create lifelong friendships here, as well as partner with each other on work projects. They also unexpectedly bond with other children – they see them every day, they watch them develop and grow. Children besides their own are happy to see all familiar parents when they come in the door, and sometimes grow so comfortable that they will plop down in your lap with a toy or book.
NL: How much does NextKids cost?
Sarah: Full-time care at NextKids currently costs from $2,320 per month to $2,525 per month, depending on the age of the child. Rates do not include the co-working membership. Workspace membership is an extra $350 (month-to-month), $325 (6 month commitment) or $300 (12 month commitment). This is very comparable to the cost of other daycare options in San Francisco.
NL: Are part-time schedule options available in addition to full time?
Sarah: Yes, we offer 2, 3 or 5 days a week – 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM. We no longer offer half days, and are not open on the weekends.
NL: Why does NextKids only exist at one NextSpace location? Where is NextKids expanding to next?
Sarah: This is our pilot program. We are looking to expand into other areas of the Bay Area – East Bay, North Bay – we’re looking to hear from you! We don’t have any set locations yet, but we’re looking for mid-size communities where people want to live their lives on their own terms, be deeply connected with and invested in their community, not commute long ways to work and who want to stay connected to their child! Eventually, we hope to bring this concept to as many states as possible.
If you’d like to contact Sarah for a tour of NextKids or to express your interest in having a location near you, message her via NurtureList or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.