ARBUTUS, Md. - People trying to drop off children at an Arbutus childcare center Thursday morning got a big surprise.
"I pulled up and found a note on the front door stating that the school was closed," said Sharon Ciccarelli, who had to scramble to find someone to watch her grandson so she could get to work.
The notes posted on the doors of Tomorrow’s Leaders Learning & Outreach on East Drive said it would be closed permanently, ‘tomorrow’, the 22nd, but it had already shut down.
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"Today is the 21st and the doors were locked and nobody was answering,” said Ciccarelli, “and I was told by another lady that was here with her child that everything was taken out in the middle of the night and the school's closed."
Sure enough, when we stepped inside, the rooms had been emptied, the time clock, employee and client records removed and someone had even pried open the drop box for childcare payments and they were gone.
"My goal was not for my parents and children to be out like this," said the center’s director and owner, Teresa Potts.
She claims it was her business partner and a group of men who came with moving trucks in the middle of the night and packed up as much as they could carry including the clients’ records with their telephone numbers, so no one could warn them of the closure.
"For every parent that brought their child to this daycare center, this wasn't my intention to operate like this,” said Potts, “For every child that isn't getting picked up from school or picked up from home, I'm sorry."
While the people are scrambling to find other ways to care for the children, the center’s 17 employees are also left out in the cold.
"I really do have bills to pay. It's not right what was done," said Diane Booker, a driver for the center.
"Where are you going to go?"
"I don't know. I don't have anywhere to go."
Some employees even confronted the partner who runs a similar center on Liberty Road, and that’s where we spotted large storage units with cribs outside them.
We’re told most of the Arbutus clients used state vouchers to pay for their childcare and a bank has frozen those funds.
"Law(s) have been broken and state vouchers---that's the state paying for daycare, and yes, something's definitely not right here," said Ciccarelli.
While an ownership or partnership dispute is a civil matter, an investigation is also underway by Maryland’s Department of Education and the Attorney General’s Office into the licensing practices and state money involved in the center shutting down.
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