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Education

CMS Will Close 60 After-School Programs In April, Lay Off 224 Employees

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Nancy Pierce
/
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
CMS elementary school students stretch as they return to in-person classes.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board voted Tuesday to close 60 after-school care sites in April, citing the impact of the pandemic. That means more than 200 employees will lose their jobs and almost 500 children will be displaced.

Last year CMS offered before- and after-school programs at 95 schools. The sites, which are licensed as five-star child care centers, served almost 7,000 students — and parents’ fees covered the cost.

This year the district opened 85 sites with just over 300 employees. But Chief Academic Officer Brian Kingsley told the board that fewer than 1,000 students are enrolled, and that’s not enough to sustain the program. He said the costs have eaten through the surplus from previous years and "the total projected loss for the entire school year ... is approximately $2 million."

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The board unanimously approved a plan to close 60 sites and lay off 224 employees as of April 1. The 25 that will remain open are scattered across the county. They're located at Bain, Ballantyne, Barnette, Blythe, Crown Point, Davidson, First Ward, Grand Oak, Hawk Ridge, Highland Renaissance, Hornets Nest, Idlewild, Gunn, Long Creek, Parkside, Paw Creek, Pineville, Providence Spring, Reedy Creek, River Oaks, Rivergate, Selwyn, Shamrock Gardens, Sharon and Winget Park elementary schools.

No middle school after-school sites will open this year.

Almost 500 students who attend the sites that close will be offered spots in the remaining programs — and also steered toward programs offered by outside groups.

Kingsley says the emergence of private programs to supervise students during remote learning may have helped erode the CMS program.

"Why this is significant," he said, "is the majority of those programs ... are free."

He said more parents are also working from home because of the pandemic, and thousands are keeping their children in remote learning even as in-person classes resume.

Laid-off employees will be encouraged to apply for jobs as substitute teachers, bus drivers, tutors and contact tracers, CMS officials say. The hope is that at least some of them can be rehired in August.

"Our intent is when the demand begins to reflect prior years' enrollment, we want to begin opening up all of our (after-school) sites as rapidly as possible," Kingsley said.

CMS will begin taking registration now for the coming year to start gauging interest. Kingsley said it takes at least 24 students per site to break even.

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