Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials have received praise and criticism from parents about the decision to close schools Thursday and Friday in light of Hurricane Florence. Many parents had to scramble to find day care for their young children, and some childcare centers are receiving lots of calls for service.
CMS officials announced their decision to close all schools and cancel athletic events and extracurricular activities on Twitter Wednesday afternoon. On social media, many people were understanding, but some parents complained that the lateness of the decision gave them little time to find childcare for their young children. Some local day care centers said they received numerous calls from parents for slots over the next two days.
Jessica Salas owns the Dogwood Lane Children’s Academy off of Arrowwood Road. Although her center caters to babies and toddlers, they still received call from parents looking for childcare.
“We’ve had several calls this morning from parents — mostly of siblings that already attend our school that are not school age — calling to see if their school-age siblings can come here as well,” Salas said. “We have not been able to accommodate them because we are not staffed to handle that.”
Salas said she referred some parents to the local YWCA. They have seven sites in Mecklenburg County, but serve mainly low-income students in their after-school literacy program. It normally runs from 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. but Kirsten Sikkelee, YWCA of the Central Carolina’s CEO, said they are making changes to take care of those students who are enrolled in the program.
“When we learned of the CMS closure, we made the decision to open as if it was a teacher workday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. because we knew parents would be scrambling to try to find care for children,” Sikkelee said. “Our youth learning center coordinators are full-time staff and they were already going to be available by 9:30 a.m., so they shifted their time up by a half an hour and their assistants are joining them today, too.”
CMS officials said the intensity and unpredictability of Hurricane Florence influenced their decision to close schools. Five CMS schools are being used by the Red Cross as shelters and that factored into their decision as well. The system said the closures will also allow staff to prepare for the storm and relatives they may have coming here from coastal areas.