Vancouver preschool shut down without warning, leaving parents scrambling for child care

Dozens of parents have been left scrambling for child care after the sudden closure of a South Vancouver preschool earlier this week.

The locks were changed at Academics PreKindergarten on Ross Street on Wednesday after the owners defaulted on their franchise agreement, according to an email from facility spokesperson Peter Andersen.

A letter on the door of the building said the franchisee did not have an approved school director in place, as required under the franchise agreement.

Parents said they received a message at about 7 p.m. the same day saying the daycare would be closed indefinitely.

Dad Brett Hughes was with his family when he received the message, and immediately headed to the facility.

“Get to the door and it’s wide open, lights are on, nobody’s here for miles. We stand around for a little bit, go in to see if somebody’s maybe packing up, and all the computers are gone, there’s no files around anywhere,” he told CBC News.

“We have some personal private information that is sitting out on one of the tables — banking info, etc. — so that’s very concerning.”

He called the police, who told Hughes to grab his children’s belongings. Officers secured the building.

Parents said about 100 children are enrolled in the preschool.

“We were all appalled with what was happening. We got no answers. We didn’t know what to do at this point,” Hughes’ wife Alida said.

The owners of the daycare told CBC News on Friday that it was not their decision to close the facility.

One co-owner said he found out the daycare was being shuttered around the same time parents did, with no prior warnings.

“We understand and feel for the families because we are similarly unprepared for and shocked by what happened overnight to the school,” Timothy Jiang said in a phone call.

“We never expect this kind of thing to happen. Obviously, the sudden closure of the school was not our decision, but was an unreasonable and avoidable outcome forced upon us and our families with minimal regard for families and wellbeing of the students.”

Jiang said he and his co-owner are now seeking advice from a lawyer.

An email from Academics PreKindergarten to parents, sent Thursday afternoon, said everyone’s financial and personal information has “remained completely secure and will not be compromised in any way.” The message said both Vancouver police and an independent security agency have confirmed as much.

The sudden closure of the preschool has meant some parents have had to get creative.

Junior Vivas took his young son along on sales calls across the Lower Mainland on Thursday.

“He’s super cute, so actually [the clients] were fine with that,” Vivas said. “But that’s not a daily solution, because at the end, I’m not at my 100 per cent for work.”

Brett and Alida Hughes are looking for answers after their child’s South Vancouver preschool suddenly closed on Wednesday night. (Susana da Silva)

The building is now under the ownership of Duecare Management, the parent company of Academics PreKindergarten, which has several locations around Metro Vancouver.

The message sent to parents on Wednesday night said the school will reopen on May 31. After what happened this week, some parents are hesitant to send their children back.

“I’m not going to trust my kid to these people,” said Vivas’s wife, Mary Mierez.

In the meantime, the company said parents should cancel any pre-authorized payments to the former owner, Ross PreK Academics Inc.

Any money currently owed to the parents is the responsibility of the former owner to pay back, it said.

CBC News spoke with the franchisee briefly on Thursday, and he said parents will “for sure” get their money back, but declined to give a timeline.

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