Toddlers ousted from preschool

Parents were irate when over 100 toddlers were left with no pre-school to attend Wednesday morning.

Protest meeting

Joey Kirchman, spokesman and parent of two children attending First Step Academy, speaks to CITN news at a protest meeting staged in front of the Planning Department offices at Leeward One on West Bay Road Wednesday morning. Photo: Jewel Levy

The Planning Department had given the owner of First Step Academy on Godfrey Nixon Way a day’s notice to close the building.

Parents were furious and turned up at the Department’s Leeward offices Wednesday morning with toddlers in tow to voice their disapproval at the way things were handled and to air their concerns about finding a school for the youngsters.

But Planning officials were staunch on the reasons for closing the facility.

‘They cannot go back in the building or they will be violating the law. The premises will have to remain closed,’ said Director of Planning Kenneth Ebanks as he hurried off to a nine O’clock appointment.

Pre-school owner Ray Bowen said he was given one day’s notice to close the building after moving into the building two days prior to that.

The pre-school had just opened on Godfrey Nixon Way Monday when the owner was told to close after moving from a building on Smith Road, which the was sold for commercial office space.

Just two days after occupying the new building, Mr. Bowen said he was told by planning officials that he had to close the building until he had completed the planning process of change of use of the building.

Worried about parents not having anywhere to take their children at such short notice, Mr. Bowen said he appealed to Planning to allow the school to stay open until parents found other accommodations, but he was told by Planning, to just close the premises.

Mr. Bowen said he called an emergency meeting with the parents at 6pm yesterday to inform them that Planning had closed the building.

‘Most parents are very upset because they do not have anywhere to take their children,’ said Mr. Bowen. First Step Academy preschool, run by 14 staff members is for toddles aged three months to four years.

‘In the meantime I will see if I can get an emergency meeting with the Planning Authority to keep the school open until the paperwork can be processed.’

Dell Ebanks, whose son Isaac attends the pre-school, said that another parent called her around 3pm yesterday to inform her that Planning was closing the school immediately.

‘I left work at 3pm to find out what was happening. When I arrived at the school I spoke to my son’s teachers Ms Tisha and Ms Deisy and they told me that Planning had closed the school and the owner was holding an emergency meeting at 6pm for all parents to inform us of what was happening.

‘We were told in the meeting by Mr. Bowen that Planning had said he had not followed procedures with paper work for the change of use of the building and had not notified the people in the area that the preschool was going to be located there.’

All the parents gathered at Leeward Courtyard said they were not given any information by Planning so they were taking their children back to the school.

When The CaymanianCompass contacted Mr. Bowen at noon yesterday he said the board was meeting but he had not gotten an official word as to the outcome of the situation. As for the parents who did not have anywhere to send their children, Mr. Bowen said they were remaining at the school.