Parent and school groups looking for organizations to provide before- and after-school child care in schools no longer will have to rely only on the YWCA and YMCA.
Any nonprofit organization licensed to provide child care may apply for approval to operate day care programs in county schools, according to a policy revision approved last week by the school board.
The YMCA and the YWCA have been the only organizations approved by the board of education to provide such programs since 1989, when the programs began.
Opening up the programs to more nonprofit groups is "an opportunity for individual schools to have more choices," said Joyce Eaton, child care coordinator for the county and leader of a committee that recommended policy changes.
Mrs. Eaton said she has applications from organizations that want to establish programs.
Now, 21 of the county's 31 elementary schools have the child care programs.
Families in which both parents work or single, working parents need the service before and after school when they are at work, Mrs. Eaton said.
Playtime Corp., a nonprofit child-care company that operates programs in Baltimore County, asked the school board in February 1994 to consider other nonprofit organizations for the programs.
New board Vice President Thomas D. Hess said the board should consider allowing for-profit child-care companies to operate the programs because they would provide a service to parents and children just as nonprofits would.
But superintendent Ray R. Keech and board member Ronald R. Eaton said private companies should not be allowed to make a profit on the school system.
The final policy, approved in a unanimous voice vote, allows only public or private nonprofit organizations to use school buildings to provide child care.
The organizations can be parent-teacher groups, government agencies or any organization licensed by the state to operate child care.
They will have to pay the school system based on utility and other maintenance costs, just as the YMCA and YWCA do.
"As long as we're all being evaluated with the same criteria, I don't view it as a threat," said Christine Adersoto, director of family services for the YMCA in Harford County.
In other business, the board voted to allow Johnson Controls Inc. to examine five to 10 county schools in a preliminary audit to determine how the company could reduce the school system's energy costs. Methods would include installing more efficient equipment, such as lights and boilers, and bringing in specialized maintenance workers for certain pieces of equipment, Dr. Keech said.
Based on a study of two county schools, officials from Johnson Controls told the board in June that they could save the school system as much as $1.8 million a year.
The company will conduct the study for free, Dr. Keech said.