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Parents Scramble to Find Care After Uptown Daycare Closes Suddenly

 Isabella Child Care told parents early June that after two decades of running with a
Isabella Child Care told parents early June that after two decades of running with a "deficit" it will be closing down in August.
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DNAinfo/Carolina Pichardo

FORT GEORGE — A long-running local daycare center has announced that it's shutting its doors — alerting parents so late, they have little to no opportunity to find a replacement for the fall, they said.

Isabella Child Care, which opened in 1991 at 515 Audubon Ave. and served children from a few months old through Pre-K, emailed families in early June with news that the program will be ending in August, blaming a “deficit that Isabella cannot subsidize at this time.” The daycare was located inside the Isabella Geriatric Center, which is a senior home and community center.

But parents said the school officials said nothing about any financial issues when they accepted contracts and tuition for fall enrollment in April — which would have at least left them a chance to apply to an alternate program as backup.

“After 25 years, they gave us 8-weeks notice,” said Kate Lyons, who currently has a 2-year-old daughter in the program, and a 7-year-old that graduated several years ago. “You didn’t ask for donations, to raise tuition… You didn’t ask us if there was anything we can do to keep this daycare open?”

Isabella, known widely for its intergenerational activities between the seniors housed in the center and kids, told parents the program had been operating at a deficit for “the entire history of the program,” and has been suffering for two years with enrollment decline.

President and CEO, Mark Kator, told parents in a follow-up email that “as painful as it might be, is responsible and in the best interest of Isabella" and that another meeting with parents will not change the decision. The program, Kator confirmed in the email, will end August 11. 

Isabella Child Care didn't reply to several requests for comment. 

Adam Lederer, who has a 1-year-old in the program said if the center had alerted parents earlier, not only could parents have taken action, they could have suggested ways to save the daycare. For example, it could have applied to be part of the city's universal pre-K program, he said.

"They kept us in the dark and didn’t use us," he said. "We would have marshaled a plan to try to save it – and also individually think of an option of what would happen... Instead of scrambling when the time came."

Sara Grillo has a 2-year-old daughter in the program and said she had been looking forward to enrolling her 6-month-old son son in December.

"We decided that if we’re going to put her in daycare, then we must put her in the right one," she said.

She said "It was the peace of mind that she needed" to know it was a trustworthy program with a long track record.

For now, parents said they're desperately looking for placements for the fall, and hoping their kids can all attend something locally "together." 

"My son created a bond there," Lederer said. "But what they’ve done is so beyond egregious — a violation of our trust. They have thrown our kids out."