Kindertown Preschool could shut down Friday | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Kindertown Preschool could shut down Friday

Dylan Silver
dsilver@tahoedailytribune.com

Tribune file photo Maria Barrows-Crist stands outside her home in August 2010.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Kindertown Preschool and Infant Center will head back to El Dorado County Superior Court Wednesday as its fight to stay open nears a critical deadline.

Last week, Judge Warren Stracener, during a hearing in Placerville, did not grant owner Maria Barrows-Crist a stay that would have continued to delay a January decision by California Department of Social Services revoking the facility’s license.

In February, Judge James Dawson granted the day-care center a stay for 120 days while Barrows-Crist appealed the department’s decision.

The 120 days is coming to an end, and without an extension, Kindertown will shut down on Friday, June 24.

“I’ve tried really hard for my family, for my staff and for my kids, but they’ve made it hard,” Barrows-Crist said.

Social Services pulled Barrows-Crist’s license for multiple violations of Title 22, the California code of regulations for preschools and day cares – the most serious was a lapse in supervision in 2010 that allowed a 7-year-old with Down syndrome to run away from the facility and end up on Lake Tahoe Boulevard.

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An earlier battle with the department over an accusation that her daughter was supervising children while under the influence of marijuana ended in Barrows-Crist winning, and Kindertown being allowed to stay open.

Since, the state has been intent on closing the place down, said Barrows-Crist’s attorney Mike McLaughlin.

“The state is hell bent on shutting her down,” McLaughlin said.

Social Services is just looking out for the welfare of the children who attend, said state spokesman Oscar Ramirez.

“In the general sense, we don’t go in trying to close facilities. We try to work with them to abide by the regulations,” Ramirez said. “The health and safety of the children is the highest priority.”

Kindertown has been in business in South Lake Tahoe since 1982. More than 7,000 preschoolers have passed through the day care’s tiny graduation ceremony, complete with hats and gowns, Barrows-Crist said.

“I’m not a threat to these kids,” Barrows-Crist said. “I’m not a threat to these families.”

For the 45 children who remain at the preschool, the Department of Education and local resource agencies will help place them at other schools, Ramirez said.

Barrows-Crist will travel to Placerville Wednesday to attend court, and several families will travel with her.

“I have huge family support,” she said. “No one can believe what’s going on.”