BURTON-How much day care is needed in a given locale? That's the question the Atherton School District inadvertently bumped into when it decided that Children's Castle, the district day care center, which also provided after school programs, was too expensive and should be privatized.

In January, the Atherton School Board entered into negotiations with Medallion Corporation of Cincinnati, Ohio, and eventually contracted out the operation of Children's Castle.

But there was a snag-there was a mixup of signals and responsibility for the utilities bill became an issue. The issue was never resolved, and Medallion withdrew from the contract. And the Atherton school board didn't step back in to run Children's Castle. Parents using the facility simply moved their children elsewhere.

One lesson may be that privatizing a function or facility for which there isn't sufficient public demand or need is no better than doing nothing at all.