Margie Jackson is the owner of two childcare centers in Hamlet. Margie’s Treasure Chest has a preschool facility as well as an afterschool program. The afterschool program is across the street from Fairview Heights Elementary.
She said the schools opening their own afterschool childcare services will most likely mean she will have to lay-off employees, and possibly even close her afterschool program.
“I’m all for taking care of the children, and them being safe is the most important thing,” Jackson said. “But, at the same time, the system is going to expect us to keep them when the schools are closed for holidays and the summer.”
Jackson described the structured homework program her facility operates for K-5 students, and said the price the schools are mulling over charging, $35 a week, undercuts the price she charges for her afterschool program.
“Our parents are paying $55 a week, but they have morning care, as well, for parents who have to get to work before school opens,” Jackson said. “In the morning, we provide our children with a healthy breakfast, just like the school system is doing, and we also have a morning curriculum to help the children get the right attitude before they go to school.”
Jackson said it’s not only her business that would be hurt, either.
“This will not only hurt my business, but hurt a whole county of childcare providers,” she continued. “If we don’t have our afterschool programs, who is going to take care of the children on holidays and in the summertime, when school is closed? How can I, as a small business owner, bring my two teachers back just for Christmas time? It doesn’t work that way.”
She said another factor that complicates the issue is whether social services will subsidize children’s tuition for the school afterschool program.
“They may have thought this through on what’s best for the school system, but have they given us any consideration or invited us to any of their meetings?” Jackson asked. “I don’t think so. Before they make their final decision, they should bring in some childcare center owners and ask what’s going to happen to the children if we have to shut down.”
In the executive summary for the program the board of education approved, information from afterschool care programs in Moore, Union and Cumberland counties are included.
Moore County Schools Spokesperson Tim Lussier said the district has had afterschool care programs in place since he was first employed by the school system seven years ago, but Richmond County’s proposal is different than what they do because it’s a district-wide initiative.
“Some are opening off of a grant, such as a 21st Century grant, and then some just run an afterschool care program for the children of working parents,” Lusseir said.
He said there was no uniformity in how much parents are charged from school to school.
The Richmond County proposal also allows individual schools to develop their own programs, but a pay scale has also been developed that would apply to the whole district.
No one for the North Carolina Department of Instruction responded to inquiries concerning how common this type of program is throughout the state.
Over the Rainbow Childcare Center owner Iris McRae also disagrees with the school system proposal, but is mindful that no one will be forced to participate in the program.
“I don’t think it’s right,” McRae said. “I just think it’s a way to make up for all that money they’re losing from the state.”
She said the implementation of this program “would have a huge effect” on her business, but said the decision of where to send their children remains in the hands of the parents.
“I think it depends on the relationship between the parent and the childcare provider,” she said. “Knowing the relationship I have with the parents of my children, I don’t think they’d switch over.”
Staff Writer Philip D. Brown can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 32, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.