Facing lower than expected enrollment, county supervisors voted to cut both the size and cost of the K-6 Distance Learning Child Care Program. And with that decision, two libraries that were closed to make space for the program, then reopened Friday Sept. 11, will not be closed again to make room for childcare.
The county government set up the program to give parents a safe place to leave their kids while away at work, with most students not going into school buildings during distance learning. It is open to kids from kindergarten through sixth grade.
It was also designed to make room for up to an estimated 1,200 students, and some supervisors and county staff at the time thought even that would be too few to meet demand, based on an earlier survey of public employees that had found close to 7,000 families interested. But when the program launched weeks later, only a few days before classes began, only a fraction of that number had signed up. As of Tuesday night, there were 205 kids enrolled.
With those low numbers, and concerned that the cost of the program may be one of the reasons for low enrollment, supervisors voted in the early morning hours Wednesday, Sept. 16 to cut the program and its fees roughly in half. That also means some of the spaces set aside for the program, in community centers and the Rust and Ashburn libraries, have been released to go back to their normal work.
Supervisors faced criticism over their decision behind closed doors, on short notice and with no public notice in advance to close the two libraries. After the child care spaces were set up inside, the libraries were reopened with the understanding that if enrollment grew, they could be closed again.
Shrinking the program to 600 seats also cuts the enrollment cost almost in half. The monthly fee for the full-day program is now $690, down from $1,005, and the school-day program is now $345, down from $660.
Families that have already paid the higher rate are expected to get a credit toward the next month, although Director of Management and Budget Erin McLellan said staff members would work with families individually.
“These are really interesting and tough times to know what to do and what not to do,” said County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large). “I would rather have actually had too many seats and not needed them, than not have enough seats for childcare.”
For K-6 Distance learning Child Care Program details and registration, go toloudoun.gov/DLchildcare. The county also offers after school programs such as County After School Activities or CASA and Youth After School or YAS. Learn more about those atloudoun.gov/1199/After-School-Programs.
For more information about library reopening and COVID-19 safety precautions, visitlibrary.loudoun.gov/reopening.