GREENSBORO — An increase in weekly fees could accompany the return of the ACES afterschool program next school year under a proposal being considered by the Guilford County Board of Education.
Superintendent Sharon Contreras is proposing upping ACES fees to $65. That would cover increased pay for ACES staff and for the cost of cleaning the spaces used for the program as part of increased disinfecting the district has taken on because of the pandemic.
The ACES program is required to be self-sufficient, meaning the district can’t shift money from other areas of the school budget to fund it.
During the 2019-20 school year, the weekly fee for ACES was $50 per week.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, however, ACES has been on hold. During that time, T. Dianne Bellamy-Small and other school board members have pressed for ACES to return as soon as possible.
“We felt like the direction from the board was to bring back ACES, and that’s the direction we took,” Contreras said during Thursday night’s school board meeting.
Her response followed a question from board member Khem Irby about whether administrators had considered bringing other afterschool programs into the schools.
Irby, a former ACES staff member, has said previously that the program should undergo major changes should it return.
Whitney Oakley, the district’s chief of staff, said ACES would be offered at fewer schools this year, focusing on the larger, best-attended sites that are the most economical to run.
She said more sites could be available for registration over the course of the summer and school year if it looks like enough parents are interested.
Oakley added that ACES is projected to break even next year if it has 25 afterschool programs with an average of 60 students each.
Contreras is also proposing increasing the fee for all-day care during teacher work days from $8 to $20. Additionally, she is recommending the district eliminate a $50 deposit parents had been asked to put down.
Contreras would expect to use the money from the increase in fees to make sure all ACES staff are paid a minimum of $15 an hour.
The Guilford County Association of Educators, a group that is similar in some ways to a union, has been calling for all district staff to be paid at least $15 an hour.
Contreras and school board members have been discussing possible ways that could be accomplished for other district staff. Ideas that have been discussed include increases in funding for the district from the county commissioners and state lawmakers.
Another possibility: Using federal COVID-19 relief dollars. However, that money will eventually run out.
ACES workers are paid from ACES fees, hence the proposal for a fee increase.
School board member Anita Sharpe said she had talked to several parents who were excited about the return of ACES but had questions about the proposed fee increase.
On Thursday night, she asked Contreras whether it might be possible to have ACES afterschool care for families following summer school. Contreras said she didn’t think there was enough time to hire staff.
Oakley said she didn’t have a “crystal ball” to know for sure if it's possible to recruit enough ACES staff in time for next school year either, but said principals have been reaching out to their former site coordinators.
Many ACES staff took other jobs with the district during the pandemic.
Contact Jessie Pounds at 336-373-7002 and follow @JessiePounds on Twitter.