‘Worst-case scenario’: VB Parks & Rec closing 14 before/afterschool childcare programs due to staffing shortage

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation officials say they are closing at least a dozen of their Out-of-School Time Programs (OST), effective Jan. 3.

Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation is closing three of its before-school and 11 after-school programs. The move is expected to impact more than 300 participants across the area.

Relocated services will start on Nov. 29, but canceled services will discontinue on Jan. 3.

“We have been doing everything in our power to beg and borrow staff from different areas of the department to cover each and every day,” said Julie Braley, Virginia Beach Parks and Recreation Department representative. “It really is like a moving jigsaw puzzle just to get the coverage that we need to keep the programs going daily.”

“It’s just become unsustainable. We’ve reached a point where we had to make some really tough decisions. Fortunately, in partnering with schools we were able to consolidate a bunch of sites. We took 19 sites and consolidated them down to 10 with the help of school transportation, but it just still wasn’t enough. Unfortunately, we reached the point where we did have to close 11 after-school programs and three before-school programs — which is something that we never wanted to ever have to do.”

Braley tells 10 On Your Side they choose which school programs would be impacted based on the number of participants.

“The way we have the programs divided is by zones. We have five zones across the city, and so basically we looked at the lowest registration numbers for each zone and pulled a few schools with the lowest registered numbers in each area,” said Braley.

That system didn’t work out for students in spread-out, rural areas of Virginia Beach, like Pungo, where Dana Myers lives.

“For me right now, it takes about 45 minutes just to get to work. So the closest daycare I think is maybe 20 minutes away? No buses are going to want to come out and pick them up and take them,” said Myers.

On top of that, she stresses that nowhere else will have the same affordable options as school-provided programs.

“Being a single mom … it’s really hard to find childcare in general. When it was provided at the school, I was like, ‘Yes.’ And it’s only, for me, $124 a month, not a week, a month. It’s just like ‘OK, I can handle that’ and then now it’s gonna be gone,” she said.

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A press release from city officials Tuesday stated that hiring and onboarding “qualified team members” has been a consistent hurdle throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The programs chosen for closure were selected based on the lowest registration numbers.

OST in the city is currently down approximately 35% of its part-time positions needed to facilitate the programs.

In the release, city officials say they have had to resort to borrowing staff members from other department units, however, they say the shortage situation has become “unsustainable.”

“We were pulling people from every area of the department possible,” explained Braley about the attempt to spare programs. “There were people from our administration building who don’t normally do direct customer-facing type work helping out. I mean, people from all levels of the department, from administrators on down, have taken shifts and worked in the child care programs over the last few months just to try and make it work.”

Registration numbers were already limited to 2,150 ahead of the school year compared to the approximately 3,300 participants daily in a normal school year.

“We need about 50 childcare employees right now to get back to our regular standard operations,” said Braley. “We could realistically reopen the 14 sites with 30.”

The representative says they’re hesitant about making any promises, but are working constantly to hire well-equipped people to step in.

“We are not going to stop trying to do everything possibly can until we’re able to get these program doors back open,” assured Braley. “We’re going to explore partnerships, we’re going to explore options for onboarding new staff and hiring, and we will keep working until we fix this issue.”

Officials say parents affected were notified of the decision on Monday, Nov. 15.

The city already closed four recreation center-based afterschool programs in October, which forced local participants to relocate to the programs at their home schools.

Even with these reduced capacities and consolidations, it is not enough to avoid the closure of the programs.

Director of Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation Michael Kirschman said the move to close and reduce their childcare services is their “worst-case scenario.”

“We know that this will put many parents in a very difficult position trying to secure alternative childcare, but we have done everything in our power to avoid this and we are sorry that it’s come to this point,” said Kirschman.

The reopening of the programs will be evaluated as staff members are hired and onboarded, however, officials say there is currently no timeline for if or when reopening will be possible.

If a program is able to reopen, the current affected participants will have first priority for registration.

If you’d like to apply to work for the city of Virginia Beach, click here.

Resources to find alternative childcare providers:

After School Programs Impacted by Shortages

  • BAYSIDE (After-School Cancelled)
  • ​COOKE (After-School Relocated to Birdneck Elementary)
  • CORPORATE LANDING​ (After-School Cancelled)
  • CREEDS​ (After-School Cancelled)
  • COLLEGE PARK (After-School Relocated to Woodstock Elementary)
  • GREEN RUN​ (After-School Relocated to Holland Elementary)
  • ​FAIRFIELD (After-School Cancelled)
  • KEMPSVILLE​ (After-School Cancelled)
  • ​LINKHORN PARK (After-School Cancelled)
  • LUXFORD​ (​After-School Relocated to: Bettie F. Williams)
  • LYNNHAVEN​ (​Relocated to Kings Grant Elementary)
  • MALIBU​ (After-School Cancelled)
  • NEWTOWN​ (After-School Relocated to Diamond Springs)
  • NORTH LANDING​ (After-School Cancelled)
  • ​ODS (After-School Relocated to: Pembroke Elementary)
  • ​PARKWAY (After-School Relocated to Rosemont Elementary)
  • ​PEMBROKE MEADOWS (After-School Cancelled)
  • SALEM​ (After-School Cancelled)
  • SHELTON PARK (After-School Relocated to Hermitage Elementary)
  • WHITE OAKS​ (After-School Cancelled)
  • ​WINDSOR OAKS (After-School Relocated to Windsor Woods Elementary)

For the complete list of closures and consolidations, click here.

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