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OLATHE, Kan. — Hundreds of families in Johnson County are on standby for reliable after school care for their kids. 

The Johnson County Parks and Recreation District (JCPRD) operates the largest before and after school childcare program in the county. JCPRD’s Out of School Time program currently serves approximately 3,000 children out of 66 different elementary schools throughout the county. 

Right now more than 500 children are on a waitlist to get into the program, some of whom have been waiting since the start of the school year. JCPRD Children’s Services Manager Jennifer Anderson said a staffing shortage is preventing the county from accepting more children into the program. 

“We have the physical space to provide care for these children. We do not have the staff to supervise. We are licensed programs and have state mandated ratios and quality guidelines. We just don’t have the staff to accommodate the number of kids that we need to serve,” Anderson said. 

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) has set a 15:1 child-to-staff ratio for the Out of School Time program. Anderson said JCPRD needs to hire about 100 new staff members to meet the demand for childcare. 

“We have not closed facilities.We’ve made it work so that we can at least provide care at each one of those elementary schools. We know how critical that care is, so we have substitutes that we send wherever [they’re needed]. We have our administrative staff that are at programs almost every day. We shuffle people wherever we can to make sure we’re meeting those ratios and keeping kids safe,” Anderson said. 

Anderson said it’s not unusual for staffing levels to fluctuate, but the pandemic has had a lingering effect on the county’s workforce. 

“It is a struggle everyday. It is a big part of our jobs now where it wasn’t maybe three years ago,” Anderson said. “It has really been within the last two years that it’s been critical. Probably the last five or ten [years] it’s steadily gotten more difficult to find the number of staff that we need, but this really is a new problem since the pandemic. It has really become a crisis for us and for all of Johnson County.” 

JCPRD is currently hiring full-time and part-time staff for the Out of School Time program. Anderson said the county will hire staff as young as 16, but would prefer to hire candidates over 18 that have some experience working with children. 

Interested applicants can find more information on how to apply on the JCPRD website.