Pinedale Christian Day Care Inc. will close on June 11, six months after six toddlers wandered away from the center without any adult supervision, a state and church official said Monday.
Day-care officials informed the N.C. Division of Child Development and Early Education that the center will close in three weeks, said Sarah Lewis Peel, a division spokeswoman for the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
“The decision to close was made voluntarily by the facility, and they have been working cooperatively with (the division) during this process,” Peel said in an email.
The day-center operates inside Pinedale Christian Church at 3395 Peters Creek Parkway, said the Rev. Matthew Sink, the church’s senior minister.
Church leaders made the decision to close the day-care center a few weeks ago, Sink said.
“No one at our church is happy about it,” Sink said. “We are really grieved about it.”
Church officials have notified the children’s parents and teachers about their decision to close the day-care center, Sink said. Church leaders also provided the parents and teachers with information about other day-care centers with space for the children and job openings for the teachers, he said.
The center, which opened in 1996, is licensed to care for 117 children, from infants to age 12, a state document shows. Its current license expires on Sept. 16.
On Dec. 4, 2018, six toddlers escaped supervision at the day care, with five of them making it to busy Peters Creek Parkway. At least two drivers stopped their vehicles on the road when they saw the children, who ranged in age from 2- to 3-years-old.
A Winston-Salem police officer assisted the drivers, and they returned the children to the day-care center.
The day-care employees were on the playground outside the center with 20 children, the Journal reported at that time. Six of the children slipped through a door of the church without the employees seeing them, went down a hall and left through the front door of the church.
At the time, Sink declined to comment specifically on how the employees were disciplined, but he said, “The teachers are no longer in a classroom, nor will they ever be.”
Sink said Monday that church leaders scrutinized every facet of the day-care center’s operations after the December incident.
“We told parents that we would work real hard to make everything excellent,” Sink said.
The church is home to several ministries during the week that many church members, residents and volunteers attend, Sink said. Those activities raised security concerns with the day-care center operating within the church, he said.
“We don’t feel like that’s a good situation anymore,” Sink said.
A state inspector made an unannounced visit to the Pinedale Christian Day Care center on Dec. 6, two days after the toddlers escaped. The inspector determined that the center had violated three state rules, as its children were not adequately supervised at all times, another state document says.
“Staff members were not positioned on the playground to maximize their ability to see or hear the children, were not moving about the outdoor environment, were not aware of the children’s activities and did not provide age-appropriate supervision when several children exited the playground,” according to the document.
The inspector also determined that the center failed to provide a safe indoor and outdoor environment for its children and that there was a substantiated accusation of child mistreatment at the center based on the supervision needs of a child.
“Staff failed to provide a safe environment when six children left the facility, and some of those children were located in and near a busy road,” according to a state document. As part the punishment for the center, the division is closely monitoring the day-care center’s staff and children, Sink said.