USM Center for Child Development closure leaves parents scrambling for other options

USM Center for Child Development closure leaves parents scrambling for other options
Parents with children who attend the Southern Miss Gulf Coast Center for Child Development in Pass Christian received a letter that the facility is closing, leaving them scrambling for other means of child care. (Source: WLOX)

PASS CHRISTIAN, Miss. (WLOX) - Parents who drop their children off at USM’s Center for Child Development in Pass Christian told WLOX that the center provides exactly what they’re looking for in a daycare and pre-kindergarten learning program.

“It’s like having a second family,” said Ashley Hessell, a mother of two.

Many of the parents, including Hessell, were stunned to receive a letter saying the center would be closing at the end of June.

"I was extremely upset, I cried like a baby," Hessell said.

All three of Mikki Ladner’s children attend the Pass Christian daycare, and she had no idea the closing was a possibility.

“We were saddened that we were losing our family that has taken care of all three of our kids since they were infants,” Ladner said.

Attendance isn’t the problem. Currently 67 children are enrolled with almost another 100 on a waiting list. The center operated by USM is also used as a training ground for students pursuing child and family sciences degrees, but many of those programs are moving online, and students aren’t being required to work in the university-operated facility which led to the closure.

Father of two Eric Tenorio thinks something else could have been done.

“If they would have told the parents up front, maybe if it would cost a little more, or done some fundraisers, maybe that could have helped out everything,” Tenorio said.

Now with the closure just more than a month away, Hessell is scrambling to find a place to send her two young children.

“Most daycares around here have wait lists,” Hessell said. “Most people tell you when you’re pregnant as soon as you find out to go put your name on a wait list where ever you want to be. It’s extremely difficult in this coastal area to find a decent daycare, and even one in general.”

Along with the children losing their daycare, the employees are also losing their jobs.

The facility is owned by the Pass Christian School District and was being leased to USM. According to Pass Christian Superintendent Carla Evers, the district is looking for other daycare operators to potentially use the building.

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