School programs

Staff Shortages Mean Some CMS Extracurricular Programs Cannot Meet NC Licensing Standards | WFAE 90.7

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will return state child care licenses for six of its 80 extracurricular locations and relax staffing standards at 21 of them. Associate Superintendent Ann White told the school board this week the changes are necessary to deal with the lack of staff.

“Like other school districts in the state and nation right now, there is a shortage of staff,” she said. The neighborhood one After School Enrichment Program, known as ASEP, feels this pinch.

“There are currently 54 vacancies among ASEP staff. Due to these staffing issues, ASEP is non-compliant at some sites regarding licensing requirements,” White said.

North Carolina’s five-star licensing system for child care is designed to distinguish between programs that meet minimum standards and those that offer more in terms of staff, equipment, discipline, health and security. School districts don’t have to license their programs, but CMS does, and most programs have five-star ratings.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

Ann White

But White told the board that CMS could not provide on-site coordinators at all schools, as required by a basic license. And he’s below the five-star staffing ratio in several programs.

“Some ASEP sites have received compliance violation citations and letters for repeated violations. Continued violations are common knowledge and may result in probation,” she said.

The council voted to temporarily surrender licenses at six sites: Eastover, Endhaven, Elizabeth Lane, Olde Providence, Palisades Park and Rama Road Elementary Schools. They will share a coordinator with another site while meeting all other licensing requirements, White said.

State licensing allows families who qualify for child care subsidies to use those subsidies to pay for CMS programs. White said only one child from those six sites uses a grant, and that student will receive transportation to another site that remains licensed.

The board also voted to let 21 venues fall below five-star staffing levels as needed, while still meeting the base level. Five-star standards require no more than 16 or 19 students per adult, depending on the age of the students, while the minimum allows 20 or 25.

Sites that have been granted permission to use the most forgiving ratio are Bain, Barnette, Davidson, Druid Hills, Eastover, Elizabeth Lane, Endhaven, Grand Oak, Greenway Park, Hornets’ Nest, Huntersville, JH Gunn, JV Washam, Olde Providence, Palisades Park, Park Road, Rea Farms, Renaissance West, Selwyn, Trillium Springs and Winget Park.

The change won’t automatically cost those sites their five-star licenses, White explained afterwards. She said a given site is likely to have only brief periods when it cannot meet the highest standard. Often this falls between the end of school and the arrival of teaching assistants who replace replacements on site, she said.

“The most important thing is that we can continue these programs for our families and for our students,” said board member Lenora Shipp. “We know it’s difficult right now to find staff.”

In February, with attendance disrupted by students entering and exiting remote learning, CMS announced plans to close 60 extracurricular sites. After outcry from parents and principals, key administrators relented and kept them open.

Board member Sean Strain said staff should have offered more options to the board.

“I don’t see a coherent plan to close the gap,” he said. “We need to fix this and fill these positions that our families and children absolutely rely on us for.”

White says the district is considering raising and signing bonuses to recruit more staff.