Local News

Durham Day Care Reopens Despite State Report Citing Numerous Violations

Posted November 11, 1999

— A Durham day care center shut down by state safety investigators last week reopened Monday morning under a provisional license.

The La Petite Academy located at 3627 Guess Road was closed November 10 after being cited for aseries of violationsranging from improper discipline to sanitary issues.

The center's regional director says more than half of the center's 110 children returned Monday morning despite the allegations.

Parents who arrived at the center Monday, either to drop off their children or pick up their belongings, received a letter from La Petite officials accusing the state of a "poor quality investigation."

The letter also states that when the state did an inspection of staff/child ratios, "all classes [were] in compliance" and they have "time sheets to disprove that allegation."

In regards to the sanitary allegations, they did have "...problems with the water temperature in the children's sinks... but not one other thing in the kitchen was wrong." It also admits "We did have some contaminated food shipped to us, and it was immediately discarded.

LaPetite officials say state inspectors only interviewed a handful of people, including two former employees, and did not speak to the director of the Durham center.

Despite the letter, many parents say they are confused by the conflicting reports.

During a visit to the center by a state Child Abuse/Neglect Consultant, staff members who were interviewed confirmed the allegations made in the report.

TheN.C. Department of Health and Human Servicesis looking into 16 minor and six major categories of alleged neglect: 1. Supervision:The report states a teacher left a 3-year-old child alone and unsupervised in a classroom for about 15 minutes. 2. Fire Safety:Investigators say the day care center has not participated in a fire drill for at least seven months, emergency "pull" alarms were not working, and an emergency door was kept locked. 3. Administering Medications:Staff members reported witnessing an incident during which the center director gave the drug Ritalin, prescribed for her own son, to a child with behavioral problems who was enrolled at the center. 4. Staff/Child Ratios:The report says staff members confirmed the center is routinely in violation of required staff/child ratios before 9 a.m. and after 4:30 p.m. every day. The state lists an example where a single teacher was responsible for watching 33 three- and four-year-olds. 5. Sanitation:Staff members reported witnessing unsanitary practices in the preparation of food at the center. Utensils were allegedly not washed and there is one report of someone cutting a finger and allowing blood to contaminate food. 6. Discipline:There are allegations of vulgar language, staffers screaming at children, and a shoving match.

State inspectors spent most of Friday at the center and agreed to let it reopen Monday with a provisional license.

"We are going to monitor them. They're not just getting an "A" license back. We realize there are some concerns we're dealing with inside. And so they will be closely monitored. We will work with the center," says Holly Britt, a child abuse consultant for the state.

The center has been closed since Wednesday evening. The report from theDivision of Child Developmentwas made public Friday afternoon.

There are 28 La Petite Academies in North Carolina. Regional director Tammy Hicks says none of the centers have ever been shut down due to a situation like the one facing the Durham center. Hicks agrees there are problems and says they are being corrected.

Many parents of the 110 children attending the center say they will look for a new day care center. andEricka Lewis


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