State health department violations at four Scottsdale elementary school day-care programs have put the service on hold at five other campuses this school year, angering parents who don’t want their children bused for care.
The Arizona Department of Health Services inspected Kids Club programs at Arcadia Neighborhood Learning Center and Copper Ridge, Cheyenne and Kiva elementary schools in May. It found violations that included missing criminal affidavits for employees, children who weren’t supervised all the time and incomplete attendance records.
Most of the problems have been fixed, but the issue has delayed licensing for new Kids Clubs after-school programs at Cochise, Anasazi, Aztec and Desert Canyon elementary schools and a program with an expired license at Pueblo Elementary School.
Leslie Hess, whose daughter is in first grade at Cochise, said she found out there were licensing problems with that school’s program in a letter the Scottsdale Unified School District sent Aug. 14, the week before school started. The letter said her daughter would be temporarily bused to Zuni Elementary School.
Hess contacted the district and was told it was waiting on the health department to do inspections, she said. About three weeks later, she called the department directly.
“I felt like Department of Health Services was telling me different things than the school was,” Hess said.
The department met with the district Aug. 8 to discuss the violations, said Lourdes Ochoa, Office of Child Care Licensing state licensing manager.
At that time, the district agreed to not submit licenses for new locations until old problems were fixed.
The license applications are ready to turn in at a meeting between the district and the department Nov. 1, said Karen Hearn, Scottsdale district director of community schools and service learning.
At the meeting, the groups will decide whether the district has cleared up enough serious violations to meet minimum standards, Ochoa said.
If the issues are fixed, the new programs could be licensed and ready to open within a couple of weeks, she said.
The district blames part of the problem on two new people being in charge of Kids Club. Hearn and Jay Molberger started in July. Both had similar jobs in the Paradise Valley School District.
The two are are now up to speed, and most of last year’s problems have been cleared up, Hearn said.
But new inspections of the closed programs between Sept. 19 and Sept. 27 showed some issues remained. None of the locations had complete emergency cards for all children, two schools had hazardous materials kids could access, and some employee personnel files weren’t complete — including missing proof of tuberculosis vaccines. In two cases, there were no notarized criminal history affidavits.
Hearn said the affidavits, statements employees sign promising they have no criminal history, have since been signed and notarized. Criminal affidavits are different from fingerprinting and background checks, which employees also undergo.
In one hazardousmaterials violation, all the program had to do was lock the kitchen, which had cleaning materials on the shelves, Hearn said.
Another problem was hand sanitizer dispensers. Since hand sanitizer is allowed during the school day, the district is figuring out a way to put covers over the dispensers after school, Hearn said.
Also, the district won’t accept applications in the future until emergency cards have been completely filled out, Hearn said.
The district mailed letters explaining the situation last week. But some Cochise parents are annoyed the district wasn’t more forthcoming in the first place.
“We’ve been told three times at least in a formal letter that the license wasn’t approved, but there wasn’t a reason,” said parent Donna Durham. “Since that wasn’t disclosed, I felt deceived.”
Hearn said she helped write a letter in September, but she wasn’t sure why she didn’t include information about the health department violations.
“To sit down and write out exactly what was going on at that time, I don’t think I knew exactly what was going on,” Hearn said.
Hess said the district seems to be trying to correct problems.
But whether her daughter remained in Kids Club would depend on the November meeting, she said.