The owner of a preschool that was shut down by government says she hopes to raise more than $160,000 to get the building out of foreclosure and make the improvements required in order for it to reopen.
Sunny Smiles Preschool on Walkers Road, George Town, which has operated for 33 years, was closed down by government last October because it did not meet standards introduced for preschools.
Owner Marion Webster says she wants to keep it open, but the bank has foreclosed on the building and she needs to raise $160,000 just to keep the property. She says she also needs to raise cash to pay for the improvements required by the Ministry of Education.
“We are appealing to the public for financial help to save the school building from being sold and to do the necessary repairs to upgrade and reopen as soon as possible,” said Ms. Webster.
Sunny Smiles Preschool was one of two Cayman Islands preschools closed by government as a result of new measures aimed at raising standards in early childhood care and education centers. The government declined to name the preschools that had been closed at the time.
According to Ms. Webster, the preschool was closed in October for eight issues that she said could have been easily rectified, adding that her school had met seven of the requirements by Oct. 14.
According to a document outlining the deficiencies at the school, presented to Ms. Webster by the Ministry of Education, other concerns about the preschool detailed in an earlier Department of Child and Family Service were still outstanding. Ms. Webster said she had not seen that report.
“We have been waiting and calling for that report from February 2014, but up until today we have not received the report,” she said.
Some issues government identified as not being satisfactory at the preschool were: no evidence of a fire alarm system; classroom space used as storage; safety of play area; only one teacher trained in first aid and CPR; old and unsafe play equipment; no evidence presented upon request of plans for learning activities or a daily schedule; and no developmentally appropriate learning activities consistent with the Early Years Curriculum Framework.
Also, some former employees of Sunny Smiles had sought assistance from the Department of Labour to gain outstanding salary and pension pay.
Ms. Webster claimed the classroom was not needed for a summer camp, so it was used as a storage area for toys at the time. She says the national curriculum was being followed and that the play area was being upgraded, but inspectors nonetheless closed the school.
“We are praying that we can raise the funds needed to pay for the building to prevent it from being sold because we would like to reopen, … not just a preschool but as a multi-function school with after[-school] and weekend programs for children and teens,” she said.
“The school has always had children from the community whose parents could not pay but [we] accommodated them nevertheless,” Ms. Webster added.
Early childcare and education centers that did not meet the registration criteria were given three months to make the necessary changes. If they were still not in compliance, they were sent a cancellation notice, with a further three-month limit before they were shut down.