Changes are coming to the before-and-after school child care service provided by the Prince George’s County Public School system, though officials have struggled in recent weeks to clarify exactly what those changes are.
Despite misinformation given to parents and employees of the Before and After School Extended Learning Program at a February meeting, the school system has no intention to privatize all of its programs, school officials said last week.
Parents and representatives from BASELP’s union cried foul after a school official announced at the Februay meeting that all the programs would be privatized within two years. Parents questioned why they weren't consulted before vendor bids were sought and how the changes would affect the quality of the child care.
But, apparently the school official was wrong, according to Deputy Superintendent Bonita Coleman Potter.
“We have been trying to mitigate that statement,” she said on Thursday, noting that PGCPS had sent out letters to all BASELP staff and parents to assure them that only the under-enrolled and specialty programs would be contracted out.
But confusion is further aroused by the language in one of two requests for proposals (RFPs) issued by the school system last spring. According to RFP 098-11, attached to this article, bids were sought for vendors to manage programs in identified school communities, be able to support specialty school programs, selected elementary school programs, “and remaining program sites (2013-2014).”
Despite the wording, Coleman Potter said this part of the bid was for informational purposes only, to see what the cost would be should they have to use an outside vendor in the future.
“The only programs we’ve ever sought private vendors for were under enrolled,” she said.
It was a 2009 feasibility study that showed that BASELP was operating at a loss, Coleman Potter stated in a letter to BASELP employees, dated Feb. 15.
However, she confirmed Thursday that BASELP was no longer losing money, and that the program had been financially solvent for the past two years.
A second RFP was issued when PGCPS realized there was a need for BASELP at some specialty schools, according to Coleman Potter's letter.
Superintendent William R. Hite reaffirmed this reasoning with a letter to parents, dated March 12. The school system “could not, in good conscience, increase staffing for the BASELP program through expansion when we were eliminating 1,300 positions overall,” he wrote.
But the executive director from the BASELP employees’ union disagrees with that reasoning.
“To say that they can’t add BASELP positions while laying off doesn’t make sense,” said Daniel Besseck, of American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 2250. The program is self-sustaining, so any new positions would not impact the overall PGCPS budget, Besseck said.
Other than the sites already contracted out, there are no more sites identified for transition in the next two years, but programs that are currently run by private vendors will remain in place, according to a letter from Gladys Whitehead, director of curriculum and instruction, to BASELP employees dated March 14.
“Future decisions will be tied to enrollment; self-sustaining sites will not be in jeopardy,” she wrote. Programs that have an average of 45 students are considered self-sustaining, officials said.
PGCPS privatized four under-enrolled BASELP sites within the past year to child care provider Springboard, according to Besseck: Overlook Elementary, Robert Gray Elementary, Panorama Elementary and Hillcrest Heights Elementary. Suitland Elementary was also contracted out to Springboard, but it did not previously have county-provided BASELP, Besseck said.
AlphaBest Education, Inc. is awaiting licensing to provide care in four more schools that have not had county-provided BASELP in at least three years, Besseck said. Those schools are Arrowhead Elementary, Capital Heights Elementary, Kenmoor Elementary and Accokeek Elementary.
AFSCME Local 2250 will be hosting another meeting for parents and BASELP employees from 7 to 9 p.m. on Monday at the Upper Marlboro Volunteer Fire Department. The Board has been invited, but has not confirmed if any representatives will attend, Besseck said.