The Orange County School Board has voted to close the child care center at the Taylor Education Administration Complex (TEAC) on June 30.
The decision came during closed session at the board’s May 8 meeting.
Chair Sherrie Page said the Orange County Public Schools Child Care Program is losing money and that pattern was projected to continue in the next fiscal year. She added that it has proven difficult to find qualified employees to work in the center—another factor influencing the unanimous decision to shutter the operation.
According to Gary Honaker, chief financial officer for Orange County Public Schools, the annual cost of the center to the school division is about $330,000. Projected revenue for the current fiscal year is expected to fall short by about $26,000, and Honaker said the loss for the next fiscal year was expected to be in the same range, from $25,000 to $30,000.
Launched in 2008, the child care program was for local school employees, Page said, but only two staff members currently have children at the center.
There are 30 or so children enrolled in what Page characterized as a “babysitting service” at TEAC. She said all but 12 of those children will be eligible to enroll during the next school year in Head Start, pre-kindergarten or kindergarten.
Page said the board wanted to announce closure well in advance of June 30 so affected families would have plenty of time to line up new child care.
“Years ago, when that program was started, it had a lot of children in it,” Page said. In recent years, however, she said many families seem more inclined to rely on “babysitters they have known and loved forever” rather than enrolling their children in the program at TEAC.
As enrollment has shifted toward children whose parents don’t work in the school system, she continued, “It’s gotten away from what it was originally intended” to be.
“I hope it doesn’t place parents in a hardship,” she said. But given that the board is “trying to be as fiscally responsible as we possibly can,” she said “it didn’t make sense” to continue operating a facility that was costing the schools more money than it was bringing in.
She said the center’s five full-time employees and two part-time employees have the option of applying for open positions in the school division.