New DHS requirements affect diocesan schools

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

In previous years, Iowa schools that offered daycare or before and after-school programs had the choice whether to receive oversight through the Department of Education or Department of Human Services.

The Iowa Legislature earlier this year removed oversight from the Department of Education to the Department of Human Service – no choice – said Lee Morrison, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Davenport.
Some schools in the diocese had already been certified through DHS, he noted. Those schools with oversight by the Department of Education have until Jan. 1 to be certified. Once they start the process for certification, the schools have 90 days to complete the process.

Notre Dame Schools in Burlington, Holy Trinity in Lee County and St. Vincent in Keokuk had DHS oversight prior to the new law, Morrison said.

At Prince of Peace Catholic Schools in Clinton, adjustments have been made because of the new law. Karen Witt, director of development, said adjustments were made in furniture for the different age groups in child care, along with some procedural changes in child care and after-school programs. More staff for both programs had to be hired. “There is an increase in costs to our families to offset the increase in the cost of providing care,” she noted.
Principal Nancy Peart said, “My wish would be that DHS would consider establishing different standards for the school-age care that takes place in a school setting. Schools are already meeting standards that meet the children’s needs for safety.”

John F. Kennedy Catholic School in Davenport had to make many changes. Principal Chad Steimle said, “What is significant are the differences in the standards and criteria (between the two departments), and no one was even discussing those.”

Many schools that had been under exemptions allowed by the Department of Education now have to make significant changes to facilities and buildings, staffing and operations to meet DHS requirements, he said.

“At JFK, for example, we will be spending nearly $50,000 this summer to air condition some areas, do sprinkler work in other areas and change security systems. We will be adding staff and requiring flexible staffing arrangements (if we have more students one night after school, we’ll have to quickly find additional staff and, if the number is low, we’ll have to let employees go home early)” in additional to other changes.

“We have been reminded by DHS that we will now be operating two entirely separate ‘businesses:’ a PS-8 school under the DE (Department of Education) and a daycare/before/after school care program under the DHS.”

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