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Fairfield parents frustrated day care's lease was not renewed

A Child's Garden, located on Mona Terrace, has served thousand families and children for 40 years.

Justin DeVellis and Rose Shannon

May 17, 2024, 9:12 PM

Updated 32 days ago

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Fairfield parents tell News 12 that they were blindsided when they learned town officials would not renew the lease of a popular day care center, leading to questions about its future.
A Child's Garden, located on Mona Terrace, has served thousand families and children for 40 years.
The Town of Fairfield owns the building, which is also home to the town's senior center.
Parents say during a recent Board of Education meeting, officials announced they would not renew the center's lease.
In a statement provided to News 12, Fairfield First Selectman Bill Gerber said, "town officials have been investigating the use of this space for Town purposes for years, and for this reason prior administrations have extended A Child's Garden's lease on a year-to-year basis."
Gerber says other town programs need the space. One of those programs is Fairfield Public Health Nursing, which currently exists in a trailer with a leaking roof and periodic infestation of mice.
"I understand it's a town building and at the end of the day, they're going to do what they want with it, but I think the residents of town should have something to say about it as well. I realize we've benefited from town space for many years, but at the same hand, I don't know that they problem you're fixing is not creating a bigger problem in the long run," said Michael Miklus, A Child's Garden's owner.
Officials say back in February, they notified the center's staff about their decision. However, due to a shortage of child care options, Gerber extended the center's lease through May 30, 2025. Normally, the lease begins in August.
Gerber and other officials have also offered to work with the center to find a new location.
"They did offer some help, but it was only after we discussed there is no room in Fairfield. There's no space available and if there were, I'm sure the town would have taken it for themselves at this point," said Miklus.
Parents and staff say they are frustrated.
"I don't think it's being taken into consideration how many lives, the teachers, the staff that this program has affected. Not just now, but these kids are here more hours a day than they are with their families for the first four years of their lives," said Lacy Gerardi, A Child's Garden's co-director.
"I think there's a lot of confusion with the parents, no one knows what's going on. We haven't spoken with the town, we haven't heard directly from the town with what their plans are," said Jonathan Krumeich.
Miklus says their fight with the town is just beginning.
"If COVID didn't shut us down, we're not gonna go out of here without swinging and if we do get closed, I'm hopeful we can find something close by in town to keep serving the community," said Miklus.
Fairfield First Selectman Bill Gerber has issued the following statement:
"A Child's Garden in Fairfield has provided day care to families for years within the Oldfield Elementary School space after it was closed. This is a for-profit, private business renting Town property. Town officials have been investigating the use of this space for Town purposes for years, and for this reason prior administrations have extended A Child's Garden's lease on a year-to-year basis. We have not "closed" a Child's Garden. I have extended their lease for one more year through May 30, 2025 and informed management in February, giving them 16 months to relocate. Their existence as a business should not be tied to this space. Businesses relocate all the time. We even offered to help management find new space, but they have not taken us up on this.
I do recognize the shortage of child care today, and that is why when we first began the conversation with the owners of this private business in February and gave them so much time to relocate.
There are several Town programs that lack sufficient space or are operating out of sub-standard space, who require better accommodations. The Board of Education's Early Childhood Center has requested space so that they can consolidate multiple locations into one, and accept more children into their pre-school program. Fairfield Public Health Nursing is one, existing in a trailer on the same grounds with a leaking roof and periodic infestation of mice. Our Human Services department needs space for social services and counseling. These are all very worthy uses of the space, are essential functions of town, and are not private, profit-making businesses.
The decision by the owners of A Child's Garden to close instead of considering relocation is one that they, it appears, have made, despite offers of assistance from the Town. I trust that they have considered the needs of the families they serve in making that decision."


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