A week after Ahead of the Curve Child Development Center abruptly closed, parents picked up their children’s belongings at the West End center on Saturday.
Cars trickled into the parking lot of the shuttered day care, which was open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Parents and their kids walked inside the Kids Klubhouse entrance and emerged a few minutes later carrying plastic bags labeled with rainbow nametags.
The business, owned by Brady Wagner and his estranged wife, Carrie Orr-Wagner, had about 45 employees who cared for 200 children. It opened in August 2008.
Ahead of the Curve, which was licensed by the state to enroll 225 students, was the largest day care center in the state. It included the 3,600-square-foot Kids Klubhouse building that contained a large indoor playground.
In a previous interview with The Gazette, Brady Wagner said expenses overwhelmed income to the point that it was no longer feasible to operate the day care. Neither employees nor parents knew about the closure until a sign was posted on the front door of the building last Saturday.
The sign said arrangements would be made for families to retrieve their possessions. At least a couple people who stopped by Saturday only knew about the exact day and time through Facebook or the media.
“I found out through another parent on Facebook and the news,” said Jana Barz of Billings, who added the owners were not on site Saturday. “We still haven’t received any official notice.”
Barz, whose 4-year-old son, Brendan, had been enrolled since he was 3 months old in 2010, said her son really enjoyed the day care.
“He loved the Klub House, and the teachers were always really accommodating,” she said, sitting in her car. “So he was sad when it closed. He was really bummed that he wasn’t going to see his buddies and hang out with his friends.”
She got him enrolled in Billings Montessori School. He’ll start there on Monday.
One issue that concerned other parents was whether they would be refunded their August tuition. Barz, who had written a check the Thursday before the day care closed, got a check in the mail on Friday.
“There was no letter, no nothing, just my check,” she said. “No explanation.”
Heather Burns, who lives in Lockwood, normally had the tuition automatically deducted from her checking account the first of the month. Burns, who stopped by the day care on Saturday, kept an eye on her account, but no money had been withdrawn.
Burns, a mother of three, has had children at Ahead of the Curve since 2008. At present, only her youngest, Hayden, 4, was enrolled three days a week.
She didn’t find out about the closure until the mother of her daughter’s friend sent a text message.
“The next thing I know, she’s sending me a texted picture of the sign that said ‘closed immediately,’ ” Burns said, standing outside her SUV.
Burns drove to the building last Saturday to read the news for herself. Then she immediately scrambled to find another day care for her daughter.
A couple of them were full, but that afternoon, she got a call from StoryBook Hollow Montessori School that there was an opening. By this time of the summer, she said, most people have day care arranged for the fall, so the timing of the closure made it difficult.
Even harder, she said, was the loss both she and her daughter felt. Hayden has been acting differently all week, knowing she will have to attend a new day care.
Luckily, Burns said, a couple of other children from Ahead of the Curve will be going to StoryBook Hollow, as well. For Burns, the day care’s closure brought another kind of pain.
“I didn’t really realize it, but this was like part of our family until they closed,” she said.