Parents and staff were distressed by a recent announcement that Tots and Tales preschool at 9000 State Ave. in Kansas City, Kan., would close Feb. 28.
"It's so sad," said one parent, Sheila Kraus. "The staff at the actual school is so wonderful and they have made such a difference in my family’s life that it’s so sad that they’re closing."
She believes that because of the excellent education her 10-year-old received at Tots and Tales, she is now in the gifted program.
The parent said it would be difficult to find another Montessori school. The one closest to her home charges $300 more a month than what she was paying, she added.
"I’m feeling so bad for the staff because they are so loyal to those kids," she said. The 22 staff members could be out of a job if the school closes, she said. She added that the parents had tried to get the school to put in a better security system, and she had hoped that more would have been done to increase enrollment.
Alicia Kassens, director of Tots and Tales, said the reasons given for the closing were lower enrollment and funding. The decision to close was made by the nonprofit owner, TFI Child Care.
Families are now trying to find new child care centers, and employees are trying to find new jobs. Some of the parents are upset about the closing.
“I’m trying to help by getting word out to colleagues and child cares to help place families and help with staff by finding jobs,” Kassens said.
Peggy Martin, a spokeswoman for TFI Community Child Care Centers, said Tots and Tales was licensed for 167 students. It has dropped to under 100. She said TFI has worked for some time to try to increase the numbers.
The recession of the past several years had a big effect on the center.
"We saw a drop in enrollment because people were losing their jobs, so they weren’t using child care. That was a really big factor," Martin said. "Even today, people don’t have jobs so they don’t use it or can’t afford child care."
Also in the past several years, the preschools have been competing with school districts that are trying to find additional revenue and are opening all-day kindergartens, she said.
Martin said TFI will be bringing in some nearby child care providers to the Tots and Tales Center to have meetings and make presentations to parents and staff. It may help the staff find employment.
She remarked that the other nearby preschools in general aren't full, either, so the other ones may see an influx of students.
She added the six weeks' advance notice to parents and employees will give them some time to make arrangements.
Kassens said Tots and Tales has many loyal families. It also had staff members who had worked there many years.
“The business has been here for 40 years,” she said. It was owned and operated by a local family for most of those years until it was sold to TFI Child Care, a nonprofit organization based in Emporia, Kan., in 2008.
There are not many other Montessori preschools in the area. There is another one in the eastern part of the city and there are some in nearby counties.
Kassens said there are about 96 families now at Tots and Tales.
Two years ago, the preschool was in the news for two water pipes that broke in the school, flooding it. At that time, there were about 140 children attending the preschool. The damage was repaired and the preschool reopened.
Locally, some public school districts in Wyandotte County have increased their preschool classrooms in the past few years.