RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The wait continues for families looking to enroll their children in an emergency child care program expected to open within five Richmond Public Schools. Mayor Levar Stoney says the city is waiting for Richmond Public Schools to “follow through” on their agreement to work with the city.
“The need is demonstrably high. The sooner RPS enters into an agreement with childcare providers to use RPS facilities, the sooner families will have access to this critical care,” said Stoney.
Last month, Richmond school leaders approved a big plan to open up five school buildings to offer childcare services during the pandemic.
It was decided that MLK Middle, Holton, Huguenot, Miles Jones and Blackwell will open their doors to 500 students who have nowhere else to go while virtual learning continues for the fall semester.
During a virtual school board meeting Monday, Superintendent Jason Kamras informed the board that a draft memorandum of understanding (MOU), had been submitted to the city.
“We had a conversation with the city indicating that the city attorneys office has recommended that the city not enter into an MOU with RPS for the emergency childcare, but rather that RPS enter into agreements with each of the providers itself,” Kamras explained.
*Conversations about the childcare program begin at the 2:11 mark of the video*
Kamras says the Peter Paul Development Center and the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority have been identified as partners.
“I’ve been speaking with the city attorneys representatives and what it boils down to is because the city is not going to be the entity running the program, the city attorneys office is not recommending they enter an agreement that would make them liable for child care regulations because they are not going to be the entity that is in the building,” explained education attorney Jonnell Lily. “That is a very simplified summary of the conversation. They see themselves as the facilitator of providing the grants to the providers and linking the providers to RPS as the entity responsible for the facility.”
Members of the board decided more discussion needs to take place, and chose to not move forward with a decision at their last meeting. Instead, the board wants to discuss the situation at their next meeting on Monday, Sept. 21.
Mayor Stoney explained in a briefing Wednesday, that the city and its partners would be responsible for running the child care program.
“To be clear, we are not asking them to assume any additional liability or to run the program," he said.
After a recent announcement that the city was partnering with the YMCA of Greater Richmond to allow to churches to be used for childcare, Stoney says 100 slots were quickly filled, proving the need.
“We will make $1 million worth of CARES Act funding available to support these neighborhood-based providers operating out of churches and other community-based organizations throughout the city,” said Stoney.
He said an application for churches and community organizations looking to provide care will be live on Friday. Interested organizations will need to submit a budget and operating plans, as well as prove they have liability insurance to show they can work with children and receive the funding.
Stoney says the focus continues to be on getting the RPS program up and running. He says the childcare program would be run similarly to after school programs within RPS buildings.
“Let’s use the models we already know work, to make this happen, no need to reinvent the wheel,” said Stoney.
He plans to send a letter, alongside members of the city council, to the school board by the end of the week.
“[We are] asking them to follow through on their agreement to partner with us,” he said. “We don’t know what the date will be. My assumption is the school board will have to take a vote of some sort on this, to sign off on this, and it is my hope they move as quickly as possible to make that happen.”
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