As a former employee of the Ruckersville Enrichment Program, a parent whose child attended the program and a concerned citizen, I felt compelled to respond to the article that appeared in the Greene County Record on March 7 titled “County will stop after school care at school year end.”
It appears that the board of supervisors and the school board seem to go back and forth with budget versus safety as being the reason for the program closing. In the beginning of this conversation, there wasn’t enough money to cover the costs of continuing the program, in its current state. At the supervisors’ meeting on Feb. 26, the comments were made that the money wasn’t even part of the issue.
“If it was just about money, we wouldn’t be talking about this tonight,” is the quote from one of the board members.
The issue then turned to the safety of the program. Having some knowledge of social services and program licensing, I looked into the “lack of safety” attributed to the program. The Ruckersville program has maintained a two-year license for many years, with minimal violations. You can find these inspections online at the Virginia Department of Social Services, searching by child day care: Ruckersville Enrichment Program. None of these violations relate to the care of the children. If the program was deficient in any area of the standards of care, an annual license or a conditional license would have been issued. However, none of those situations occurred. The program continued to meet standards at its highest level. I messaged two members of the board and questioned them about the lack of safety because of the excellent inspections the program received. There was no clear response to my question.
I understand that the decision has been made to close the program, much to the dismay of many in the community. However, the program should not be made to look like it is a danger for the children. The staff— past and present—has always provided a safe, caring environment for the children. The staff has always been qualified to care for the children. The number of staff declined due to facilities offering fulltime positions with benefits, which could not be offered by the program. The issue has never been a lack of qualification; it was the number of staff available.
The entire truth of the story should be told, not just the parts that the supervisors and school board members want to be heard. The program is a great asset to the community, the quality staff is wonderful to the children and the loss of this program will be detrimental.