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Parents frustrated over childcare center cutting hours, CEO says there was no other choice

Parents frustrated by shrinking daycare hours
Published: Apr. 22, 2022 at 11:03 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Parents across the state are frustrated after learning Ardent Preschool & Daycare will be cutting hours next week.

The notice went out to families on Thursday, April 21, 2022, stating the new hours would go into affect on Monday.

Their hours of operation and childcare will end at 4:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 3:30 p.m. on Friday. Up until this point, Ardent was open until 6:00 p.m. A 15% cut in hours and starting next month tuition is rising.

Matt Dixon is the father to 19-month-old triplets enrolled at the center. He says after reading the announcement, he and his wife were shocked.

“The idea of giving two business days to reconfigure childcare in the middle of a workday is just -- I’m at a loss for words for what you actually call that,” said Dixon.

Finding new childcare solutions is now on the task list for thousands of families across the state. Dixon says the most frustrating part is how last-minute parents were notified.

“The timing on multiple level could not be much worse,” he said. “Couple weeks notice, a month notice, would have been tricky to navigate. This is borderline impossible.”

Dixon says his family is looking into other options like a nanny or babysitter, as well as other childcare operations. Unfortunately, because it’s in the middle of the semester, not many are accepting new children at this time.

“No one saw this coming and no one I’ve interacted with seems to have a great plan on how to deal with this,” said Dixon.

Several parents told WBRC they are searching for answers from John LaBreche, the CEO of Ardent. He spoke exclusively with us on Friday.

“We had to make a tough decision about either changing our hours or having to close out classrooms,” explained LaBreche. “Like picking and choosing which classes are going to be totally closed next week.”

The main reason is because of significant staff shortages and burnout. LaBreche says every location needs five to nine full time staff members right now.

“My corporate team has been covering classrooms, my wife’s been covering classrooms, I’m covering two-year old classrooms. I did that three days last week.”

He says many employees are working well over 40 hours to make up for the lack of staff, causing extreme burnout. LaBreche adds that some days, they are getting upwards of ten employees calling out sick, on top of a limited staff.

Since the announcement, LaBreche says he’s received threats and his staff is dealing with backlash.

“It’s tough,” he said. “People don’t know the context of what you’re trying to do and how much you care because they don’t see the behind-the-scenes of what’s happening. We’re trying to do the best job we can.”

The CEO says the new hours are only temporary until they can hire more people and fully train the limited staff they do have. They plan on reevaluating at the end of July.

He still wants parents and families to know that he understand the frustration, and wishes there was a better solution.

Parents frustrated by daycare decision to cut back hours

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