Parents at Country Beginnings were not privy to the closing until they arrived at the day care Monday morning to drop off their kids. There they found locked doors, darkened windows and a sign that read “CLOSED.” The property has been under foreclosure since October 2015.
“It’s heartbreaking because all these people are without jobs and all these parents are without somewhere to put their kids,” said Lauren Horchler, whose daughter attended Kids Campus.
Now, parents are out a week’s tuition — in some cases up to $165 per week — and struggling to find day care centers with openings.
“They’re all full and have wait lists,” said Lucy Rodriguez, whose 3-year-old daughter attended Kids Campus. Rodriguez worries if she can’t find a solution soon, she may lose her job.
Horchler had just enrolled her 4-month-old daughter in infant care at Kids Campus a week ago. She wonders whose pocket her money wound up in.
“Where did that money go?” she asked. “It’s obviously not going to paying the teachers or funding the school.”
Sky Beard, executive director for the Early Learning Coalition of Brevard, which partially funds both centers, said it’s a highly unusual situation. The Early Learning Coalition is a not-for-profit organization that contracts with 180 providers around the county to provide School Readiness and VPK programs.
In 2016, the coalition provided $126,434 in funds to Kids Campus and $164,523 to Country Beginnings, based on attendance. The money, explained Beard, was meant to sustain the business, but the organization did not monitor how the money was spent.
Because the company did not inform the coalition of the closure, Beard said her organization has moved to terminate any contracts between the two parties.
The company’s owner, Christopher Glatz, told the coalition earlier this week that he planned to reopen the centers next week, but that was before his arrest. Beard said her group would not be reconsidering their termination efforts.
“You’re supposed to tell us before you just close,” she said. The coalition was also unaware both facilities had lost their accreditation through the National Early Childhood Program, which confirmed neither centers are accredited under the program despite saying so on their websites. It’s unclear when they lost their accreditation.
The coalition is working to help any parents now searching for new child care services. The matter of bounced checks, however, is between the employees and the owner, she said.
Both centers are situated next to charter schools, Campus Charter School in Port St. John and Royal Palm Charter in Palm Bay. And although neither is affiliated with the day cares, they’re trying to help any way they can.
Students enrolled in after school care at Kids Campus who attend Campus Charter, like Stephanie Jordan’s first-grade son, can, for the time being, join the charter school’s after school program. Royal Palm Charter is offering the same accommodation.
“It’s not a matter of ‘Let’s just go run it.’ I wish it were that easy,” said Greg Gerard, assistant principal at Campus Charter. “Unfortunately the people who are losing are the children and the teachers and the parents.”
Just days after the day care centers closed down, Glatz, 50, was arrested and charged with possession of crystal meth, according to a police report.
He was pulled over Wednesday night for a traffic violation. Police say Glatz was driving with a suspended license and was arrested.
When he was booked into the Palm Bay Police Department, officers found a clear bag of what they say was crystal meth hidden in his shoe. He now faces felony charges for possession of a controlled substance. He was released from the Brevard County Jail Thursday afternoon on a $2,500 bond.
Glatz and his company are also currently being sued by Royal Palm Charter School Inc., Campus Charter School Inc. and Primary Charter Schools Inc. The lawsuit, filed in March 2016, asserts that Educators Management Group and Glatz breached leasing contracts and failed to provide insurance for the properties even though he was charging for it.
In December 2015, both charter schools severed ties with Glatz’s company, Educators Management Group, which at one time provided services to the schools, including systems for curriculum and evaluations, and from which Royal Palm Charter still leases a portion of its property.
The decision came soon after Campus Charter faced closure from the Brevard County School Board when audits found that the school had issued loans to Campus Developmental Research Schools, a company also owned by Glatz.
According to a termination letter issued in December 2015, his company improperly managed the school’s finances, failing to pay mortgages and other bills.
The letter called into question Glatz’s “flagrantly self-serving” business decisions. He was accused of using rent money meant to go toward mortgage payments for “other unknown purposes” and “improper business relationships.”
Glatz could not be reached by FLORIDA TODAY. Parents and teachers who spoke with FLORIDA TODAY also said they could not reach him.
Now, the day care closures have parents concerned about the future of the adjacent charter schools. Stephanie Archer, BPS assistant superintendent for the Division of Equity, Innovation and Choice, emphasized that Brevard Public Schools is not affiliated with these day cares in any way.
“I know the recent issues with Country Beginnings has people questioning whether or not the same thing could happen to our school,” wrote Paul Bramel, board president of Royal Palm Charter. “Royal Palm received a 15-year charter contract with the district just this past year and is financially sound. There are no worries about the sustainability of the school.”