Parents of at least 120 children in Gardner have mixed emotions of heartbreak and frustration after they discovered their beloved daycare had to suddenly close its doors because of a mold problem.
"It was a big shock. I was in tears because I was like, 'am I going to be missing work? Where are my kids going to go?'" Amber Richtsmeier said.
Richtsmeier was one of dozens of parents who had to scramble Tuesday morning after learning Little People's Place Child Development Center closed its doors indefinitely.
"Today was mostly hugs and crying," daycare owner Dave Miller said.
Miller and his wife, Molly, were at the center early Tuesday to say goodbye and console parents and their children.
Richtsmeier took the day off work to find a new preschool for her 4-year-old daughter and a center that could watch her 7-year-old son after school.
She and other affected parents were most concerned about how they found out the center was no longer open – they didn't get a phone call.
When KCTV5 News went to the daycare one parent was there looking for answers, but the doors were locked, the building and parking lot were empty.
The daycare sent emails to parents and posted a notice on their Facebook page with a full explanation of the situation:
"LPP families, we are stunned to be telling you this, but LPP has closed its doors. We found that there is a construction defect in our building that has caused mold to grow inside the exterior walls. It does not appear to have been airborne in the building as the wall is sealed. We found this problem while repairing a damaged area of wall today and have just had it tested. The position of the testing engineers and the Johnson County Health Department are that we cannot open for business on Tuesday or for the foreseeable future. The health and well being of you and your children is our highest priority. We are so sorry for this terrible inconvenience to all of you. This has come as a terrible shock to all of us. More information will be coming in as further testing is done. Again, We are so sorry that this has happened. Providing you and your children with the best care possible has been our dream and it appears to be over. I will be here Tuesday till noon if you would like to come in and pick up any of your children's things. Further opportunities will be available later this week. For those of you who have paid tuition in advance, once payment processing is complete, refunds of those funds will be made available to you in a timely manner."
According to the owners, construction workers found the mold while repairing a dent in the wall.
When the contractor advised that the daycare be shut down until the mold could be removed, the daycare contacted the Johnson County Health Department, which also agreed.
Health department officials told KCTV5 News that the shutdown was voluntary.
Miller said engineers told him the mold was caused by a building defect and not due to any negligence of Little People's Place.
The daycare is a family-owned child development center with children ages 6 weeks through fourth grade. It is one of the most highly-reviewed daycares in Gardner and one reason why it was so hard for Richtsmeier to leave it behind.
"I loved how the facility looked, how well everything was taken care of," Richtsmeier said. "Even the good ones, things happen to."
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