HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Parents are scrambling for options for their children now that a well-known South Huntsville church is closing its popular and long-standing childcare programs.
Whitesburg Baptist Church will be shutting down its Weekday Early Education Day Care, Half Day Care, Mother’s Day Out and Pathfinder Summer Camp Programs on May 31st.
Many families have relied on the day care programs for decades.
Parents received a letter from the senior pastor, chairman of the personnel committee and chairman of Deacons on Monday saying the facility has to make improvements "in order to be in alignment with our core values."
Senior Pastor Dr. Darryl Craft says the decision was not made easily or lightly, but added that it is necessary in order to help move the church into a new era of ministry.
“We certainly care about the families in our weekday program and the employees that are there, but as we’ve evaluated the needs of the congregation and decisions that we need make moving forward, it’s required us to make this difficult decision,” Dr. Craft explained.
He said the day care director is helping families and employees find openings at other facilities.
“Whitesburg Baptist Church has been a legacy church, a great church with a storied past and we desire to be a church that has an incredible future,” Craft added. “We asked ourselves what the steps are that we need to take to provide the facilities, the staffing and the opportunities to better minister to families in the long run and sometimes, in the short run, that means have make difficult decisions that are not always easy to implement.”
If you already paid the registration fees for the upcoming Pathfinder summer camp programs, your money will be refunded or applied to your account.
Dr. Craft says the church is going to start a strategic planning process that will launch the next five years of ministry and everything will be evaluated, including day care.
“But at this moment, that is the decision until we walk through the strategic process of where God is taking this church in this future,” he stated.
He could not provide exact numbers of how many employees are impacted by the decision and how many children are enrolled in their different programs, but indicated that it was less than 200 kids.
Families are in the process of finding other day care programs and wish they had more notice.
One mother said she felt blindsided.
“This all came as a complete shock to day care parents and staff,” she said. “This announcement came after most early education centers in town have closed registration.”
Paige Schultz has three children in day care at Whitesburg Baptist Church- ages two and five, as well as a four-month-old. She trusts the staff with her kids so the move to close all of the childcare programs has hit her family hard. For her, having to find three openings with different age groups is challenging without having to go three different places.
“It’s created a bit of a panic. More of the local day cares have been slammed with calls from parents looking to get their children enrolled to these places that we don’t know anything about but we’re desperate. Fall enrollment has already happened,” she said. “We’re also seeing the staff that we’ve come to know and love hurting with two months to find a job.”
Schultz hopes that the church can explore and consider other options.
She’s started a petition, asking parents to sign it so that the church leadership knows how many people want them to look at other ways of handling the situation.
“I really want to see the situation reverse if possible. I think that they have enough presence in this community and have been around long enough that it should hold some weight and they should be able to remain open. Alternative plans can be made, whether it’s a gradual phase-out or gradual renovations but to close suddenly is not in the best interest of the families, the children or the daycare workers,” she added.