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Child care changes ahead at TCAPS

The Record-Eagle - 5/16/2018

May 16--TRAVERSE CITY -- With safety a primary concern among child care services offered through Traverse City Area Public Schools, changes are in the works to meet state and federal standards.

The biggest change is the new comprehensive background check and fingerprinting process run through the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Michigan Child Abuse and Neglect Registry, National Sex Offender Registry and other licensing databases. This will include fingerprinting all staff plus bus drivers who transport students to and from licensed child care programs such as preschool, extended daycare and summer camp. The process can take up to 45 days.

"Anybody who has unstructured time or non-supervised time with any preschool student will have to go through this comprehensive background check," Boardman Administration Center Director Tiffany Pomaville said. "There are things the state of Michigan and the FBI will consider exclusionary that we will not. If you've (committed) a felony, (the FBI) will exclude that after 10 years -- potentially seven years or five years. TCAPS policy is that we would not take a felon. We will continue to do our fingerprinting as well as the state of Michigan's."

Cost for fingerprinting an employee is $63, but each licensed site will receive 16 coupon codes -- which will amount to more than 220 for TCAPS -- to offset the cost of the process. TCAPS will hold a special event over the summer to fingerprint all necessary staff.

"The school system's fingerprint rule is a little more stringent than what this one is, but it's a second set of prints that we have to submit," TCAPS Student Services Associate Superintendent Jamie McCall said. "We're doing everything we can to stay on top of this. This is no easy task."

Ten of the 15 child care services within TCAPS hold a "regular" license status, up from five in January. Two sites each have "first provisional" and "second provisional" statuses, while Traverse City Central High School will not renew its license. Officials from Michigan'sDepartment of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs are working with staff at Central Grade School to improve the site's child care license status.

"We have agents who hold us to a standard that is a black-and-white standard," McCall said. "We were struggling to get up to speed with that standard, credentially and with staff ratios. Right now, we have a corrective action plan with LARA, and they're working hand in hand with us to make sure we get all of our programs up to a standard they can accept."

Other changes within TCAPS child care services include eliminating variability of drop-in services from extended daycare, which means families cannot pick week to week which days their child will attend extended daycare. While not ideal, Pomaville said it was necessary to remain in compliance with state and federal standards. TCAPS is also increasing its wages to hire and retain qualified staff.

Revenue from the child care programs is expected to decrease by $69,000 in the 2018-19 fiscal year, but Associate Superintendent of Finance and Operations Christine Thomas-Hill said it is unknown yet if any of the changes will impact that figure. The programs transferred $371,000 into the general fund in 2017-18.

"It wouldn't mean the program isn't cost-neutral," Thomas-Hill said. "It certainly is a revenue-maker."

TCAPS Board President Erik Falconer said he is pleased the district has child care high on its priority list.

"As a school district, there are a lot of ways we can think about incorporating early-childhood education and preschools into our policies and our buildings," Falconer said. "The fact that we have expertise and have begun ramping up the competency curve so fast is what we'll need going forward."

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(c)2018 The Record-Eagle (Traverse City, Mich.)

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