Albemarle County Schools Dealing with Waitlist for Popular Program

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Kelvin Reid Kelvin Reid
Kate Acuff Kate Acuff

Albemarle County Public Schools (ACPS) is busy gearing up for the start of the new school year later this month.

But, administrators are in the middle of juggling problems over the staffing and accessibility of the Extended Day Enrichment Program (EDEP). Some parents have expressed frustration to NBC29 about children being waitlisted for that program.

The Department of Social Services took over the program last year. Since then schools have had a hard time keeping up with new state mandates for staffing and the desire to make the program even more accessible to low income families.

“That's a byproduct of being a popular program that's really desirable. We're convenient and it's good quality,” said EDEP Director Kelvin Reid.

The hardest mandate is that the job is part-time, yet looks for teachers, not just care-takers.

“We do a lot of thematic units, we try to find very highly-qualified staff, and it makes it tough when we have teachers who really want to be full time in a classroom,” Reid said.

There are nearly 250 kids on the waitlist. To get all of them spaces, EDEP needs to hire between 12 to 15 more people.

To add insult to injury, a program evaluation by the school board found another issue with the enrichment program: “What popped out for me was the equity issue, because there is a very strong skew towards higher-income kids in the program,” said ACPS Board Chairwoman Kate Acuff.

The educational program costs just over $2,100 per academic year. That's affordable for some families, but not necessarily for low-income households.

“Even if the $230 tuition per month for full time is affordable, it’s not affordable if you have two or three kids in the program. It adds up quite quickly,” Acuff said.

This year, ACPS will budget money to pilot a program at Red Hill and Scottsville elementary schools to help make the program more accessible.

“We're going to have a sliding scale with parents making less than $16,000, which is really low, not having to pay any tuition,” said Acuff.

The chairwoman said it does not escape her that the effort to make the program more accessible will run directly into the original problem: “There is an issue if we can't even staff it now... Last year we had a waiting of about 215 children, and we had almost 1,100 students in the program and that the main bottleneck is staffing.”

With just under three weeks to the start of school, and Reid says they are hiring, and inching through the waitlist.

“Our goal is to serve all children. We believe we're the best place for them. I think parents believe we're the best place for them,” he said.

Acuff says legislation is in the works to transition oversight back to the Department of Education, which will loosen those mandates, and make staffing easier to get more kids that after school care.