MARKED TREE, AR (KAIT) – A number of agencies came together Tuesday to begin efforts to reopen one of two buildings where the Child of Mine Daycare was located. The building where the Arkansas Better Chance program was offered will be reopened Wednesday, according to the Crowley's Ridge Educational Cooperative.
"We wanted to move the ABC to Head Start and our infants and toddlers to our ABC building. That didn't work out so ABC came back and said let's try to take care of our preschoolers," said Mayor Dixon Chandler. "It's been two weeks and the message I got this morning from John Manning was that we're going to open the school Wednesday morning."
John Manning said Tuesday he was excited for residents of Marked Tree, who have had to find alternative child care over the last two weeks.
"I have had several calls about where the parents are and we thought this was going to happen last week, and we were going to connect with the Head Start. It did not happen so ABC took the bull by the horns and we're ready to open tomorrow," said Chandler.
"The Department of Human Services and the ABC program, which stands for Arkansas Better Chance, contacted the cooperative and asked us to help get the ABC program back up and running," said Jennifer Cates, Early Childhood Director. "We're working on getting these two classrooms back up, getting preschoolers back into the school."
Cates said the cooperative will rehire at least six teachers who were previously involved with the program at Child of Mine.
"The children came first, but 17 jobs in Marked Tree in the situation that we're in today, that's a lot of employees and the first thing that I asked ABC was to keep all the local employees that we have now," said Chandler.
"If a child was already enrolled, they are all ready to go. If it's a new applicant, there will be some paperwork," said Cates.
Cates said the Marked Tree School District will provide meals to children. The school can only provide services for children ages three to five.
"The ones that we will not be able to take care of are infants and toddlers," said Chandler. "We can handle most of it, except the location. If they don't meet the qualifications for the building, we don't have a place."
Cates said each classroom is licensed to take care of 20 children. The building has two classrooms.
"It's a licensed preschool program that has been around for a number of years," said Cates.
April Williams said she was upset with how a registered level three sex offender was hired to perform carpentry work at the daycare, which eventually lead to the Department of Human Services issuing an emergency revocation.
"You're coming to get your child and you won't be bringing them back tomorrow, so I had a three-year old in my salon for about two days until I could find some close friends of the family to come and help," said Williams. "I am in a situation. I have to work. I am a single mother of three. I work about 11 hours a day so I need child care."
Williams said Chandler contacted her, promising to find former employees of Child of Mine new work.
"The teachers there were so good. I mean they were great. We loved them and they loved Piper and she misses it. She asks about school," said Williams. "We need a daycare here. I think that is very important."
In March, Marked Tree police were called out to Child of Mine, where they found Kenneth Wayne Gilmore, a high level three sex offender, working on various projects. Police told him to leave the premises and later arrested him for being a sex offender on school grounds.
The following week, police arrested Wynetta Gilmore on charges of child endangerment. Police said she hired her uncle to do carpentry work during school hours.