HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -Huntsville day cares have been flooded with calls from parents desperate for openings for their kids.
It comes after Whitesburg Baptist Church announced that it’s putting an end to its childcare- a sudden move that sparked confusion and upset families who trusted and relied on the programs. The church has offered day care for decades.
Parents were notified on Monday about the decision to shut down all weekday programs at the end of May. They feel they were not provided with a clear explanation by the church or enough notice.
Families are exploring every possible avenue for other programs.
At Ardent Preschool & Day Care, the phones have been ringing nonstop. Their Jones Valley campus on Four Mile Post Road in South Huntsville has heard from a lot of families in the wake of Whitesburg Baptist Church's decision.
Ardent is located nearby and their staff has been working to help panicking parents.
“Being a new campus, which we are, we’ve been open for about six months, we do have immediate availability. So we are able to offer a lot of families who are transferring from Whitesburg, a start as soon as they’re ready to transfer,” said Marketing Manager Tamara Harrelson.
Ardent has also been interviewing employees impacted by Whitesburg Baptist’s decision to end day care.
"Some of the staff members have already come over and done interviews with us, interested in employment. With all these new young families, we’re going to need new staff to be in the rooms with them,” Harrelson explained.
Other area churches are doing what they can to help parents, including First Baptist Church on Governors Drive. For the summer, they have a ranger camp that’s a full day for kindergarten- 2nd graders, a vacation bible school and a music camp. They are making as many slots available as possible.
In an email from the weekday day care director at Whitesburg Baptist Church, parents were also notified of other summer programs at Grace Lutheran, The Matrix Gym and Little Valley Christian Academy.
Grace Lutheran also has a childcare program and they’ve been getting calls and doing tours with parents. Principal Mike Ellis says they are opening an additional room to help accommodate the influx. Some of the staff members from Whitesburg Baptist Church have also reached out to Grace Lutheran.
Parents are dismayed over the shutdown of the longtime daycare- a pillar in the South Huntsville Community.
“Having to find openings with three different age groups has been challenging without having to go to three different places,” said Paige Schultz. “We’re left wanting a clear explanation.”
Parents are currently searching for a space willing to host an appreciation/support event for Whitesburg Day Care staff and families affected by the closure.
They're also looking for an estate lawyer who can serve as a fiduciary for a GoFundMe they would like to set up. Their goal is to collect two months of severance for every staff member affected by the layoff.
According to the Alabama Department of Labor, generally, churches and church-run businesses are exempt from paying unemployment insurance taxes on their employees, so the employees would not be eligible for benefits. It is covered in Alabama Code 25.4.10.
Parents have been voicing their concerns to the Southern Baptist Convention and the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.
Some are considering quitting their jobs if they cannot find placement for their children or if the other options are too pricey.
"We are grieving with our school family today. Please note that my family and I do not agree and cannot fathom a reason for your actions," one parent wrote in a letter to Whitesburg Baptist Church.
“Finding a daycare is an extremely stressful experience... Add to this the fact that the Pastor gave 59 working days (not counting Holidays) for these families to find a new day care. Most day cares; wait lists are 6 months or more. Not to mention that summer is approaching and the caliber of the Whitesburg Day Care is almost impossible to match,” another parent stated.
Dr. Darryl Craft, senior pastor at Whitesburg Baptist Church, addressed the church's decision on Tuesday saying: "We're praying for the families and our employees. We're working to help them in any way that we can. It's a difficult thing for these folks and we hate that, but sometimes these decisions that we make are not always easy." The staff at Ardent Preschool & Day Care said they're happy to help parents make the transition.
Meanwhile, other facilities are doing what they can to accommodate those impacted by the closure.
“We are faith-based preschool and daycare. We are a Christian, non-denominational facility. We teach Bible daily. We do Biblical character training with our children. We even have a Biblical character training blog that we put out each week," Harrelson stated about Ardent. “It’s an awesome opportunity to have the availability to be able to serve these families and in the same token, the staff members."