On May 23, 2019

Child center forced to close pending police investigation

By Katy Savage

The Rutland Parent Child Center has been ordered to shut down its location on Juneberry Lane after the state found some teachers who weren’t licensed and found children at risk.

DCF Director of Child Care Licensing Christel Michaud said the department received two calls that children had been injured in two separate incidents on May 10.

“[The calls] really left us with concerns about the staff’s ability to meet the children’s needs,” Michaud said. “Until that can be addressed, we’ve rescinded that variance.”

The location closed on May 12. Michaud declined to give details about the incidents. She said the incidents are being investigated by state police.

Concerned parents are pulling the children out of the program.

Mary Bernier said she called the police last Wednesday, May 8, when she noticed her 4-year-old daughter had a red mark around her neck.

Bernier was told by a staff member that her daughter’s neck was caught in a parachute on the playground. Bernier said she was never called about the incident.

“It’s been a mess – an absolute mess,” she said. “It’s been horrific.”

Bernier said her daughter had attended day care there since she was 6 months old.

“I’ve been with them for four years now,” she said. “It’s really disturbing – it’s sad.”

A nine-page report from the Department of Children and Family Studies cited five violations at the day care.

The issues became present when a DCF field specialist went to the facility for a compliance visit on April 18 and overheard  “concerning interactions between a staff member and the children in care,” a May letter from the state says.

DCF field specialists visited the facility four more times in the weeks that followed.

In one incident, a staff member yelled at a group of 3-5-year-old children to sit on the floor and watch a movie on a laptop computer placed on a chair in front of them.

“Some children of this age have shorter attention spans and need alternatives to a movie,” the letter said. “Making all children of this age sit for this length of time is not a developmentally appropriate expectation.”

Another violation said a child threw a chair and a bucket at other children in a classroom while one child took her clothes off and ran naked. Two other children ran around and bumped into each other, causing them to fall as five staff members watched.

One staff member yelled at children, saying, “You seriously don’t know how to behave. You are getting on my nerves. I can’t handle this anymore,” the letter said. The report also said staff member who hadn’t completed an early childhood education course was listed as a teacher assistant.

The Rutland County Parent Child Center has been in a temporary location since the facility on Chaplin Avenue flooded, Nov. 25. The child center received a variance from the state to temporarily relocate pre-school to 15 Juneberry Lane and relocate infants and toddlers to 81 Center St. While the Juneberry location is closed, the Center Street’s variance is up May 31.

Multiple attempts to reach Executive Director Mary Zigman weren’t successful.

Zigman sent a press release on May 20, announcing the child center would merge back to one location through the summer. Zigman didn’t say where the new location would be.

“RCPCC wants to reassure parents that actions needed to resolve rescindment are in progress and the early childhood education program will be proceeding as a whole in an improved location,” the press release stated.

Zigman said that flood repairs to the original Chaplin Street location stalled due to insurance issues, but those issues have been resolved in the facility’s favor and the Chaplin Street location will reopen in September, according to the release.

Before another variance is granted, however the RCPCC needs to make corrective actions, including instructing staff to use positive guidance and positive behavior management that encourages self-control, self-direction and self-esteem, and ensuring all staff are trained. Results from the police investigation will also need to be addressed.

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