(Updated 5 p.m.) Arlington Children’s Center, a childcare facility that has operated in a county-owned building for 30 years, will close temporarily at the end of August.
Doors to the facility at 1915 N. Uhle Street, near Courthouse, will shut on Aug. 31, when the contract expires between Arlington County and the company operating the program, AA Daycare, according to Arlington County spokeswoman Jennifer K. Smith. The two could not reach an agreement to extend the contract ahead of major renovations slated for January 2022, she said.
AA Daycare has managed the program, which enrolled children of Arlington residents and county employees, for the last 17 years, according to owner Anna Wodzynska.
“This is a dramatic situation for all of us,” she said in an email to parents.
According to a letter to parents from the county, shared with ARLnow, the county and AA Daycare were negotiating an extension up until a week before the news of the closure. Parents were notified of the changing situation last Wednesday.
Parents tell ARLnow they are under immense pressure to find an alternative while childcare is in such high demand. One said this “is a herculean task given that most daycare centers in the area have waitlists of at least 6-9 months. If the county is serious about solving the childcare shortage issue, this decision is baffling.”
AA Daycare was notified about the planned renovations to the space, which has not been updated in 30 years, in January 2020, Smith said.
“We offered alternative space to AA Daycare to continue operations for the period of planned construction,” she said. “This offer, along with an option to extend the contract, was declined.”
Parents said they had heard about the upcoming renovations early last year. The county letter to parents said the planned improvements include reconfiguring the space to meet current standards for daycare and to reach compliance with the Americans with Disability Act, as well as an interior refresh.
“We started at ACC in January 2020 when our daughter was 4.5 months old,” said one mother. “Shortly after starting, I do remember receiving a flyer from the center detailing that, at some time, work would need to be done on the building… But it was not worrisome at the time, and it was certainly not presented in a way that the center would unexpectedly close forcing families to find new care within 6 weeks.”
Smith acknowledged the parents’ frustrations.
“We recognize this is short notice and have offered to assist parents as best we can — this was not the outcome we wanted,” she said.
Wodzynska, meanwhile, has assured parents that their children who are two-and-a-half years old and older will have a spot in a sister facility in Ballston, at 3850 Wilson Blvd. She said the transition “will be as smooth as possible,” with some staff transferring to BCC.
“The only consolation is that less than 2 miles away from ACC, we own another beautiful daycare called Ballston Children’s Center and we have space for all our children that are 2.5 years and older,” she wrote in the letter. “Unfortunately, BCC is not licensed for younger children, so we will not be able to enroll our youngest children.”
She declined to comment further on the closure.
For families with children under two-and-a-half, Arlington County has resources for finding alternatives, Smith said.
County Board Vice-Chair Katie Cristol, a champion of expanding affordable childcare options, said her office can help ACC families struggling to find care for their children after Aug. 31.
“I would welcome the chance to connect them to help, if they want to contact me,” she said. “We heard from one parent last week and my office followed up quickly.”
Smith reiterated that the county plans to reopen the facility as a daycare.
“The County is actively looking for a vendor to lease the building and operate a daycare at the facility once construction is complete,” Smith said. “AA Daycare has been invited to participate in this process, along with other childcare operators in the area.”
Cristol underscored the importance of upgrading the building and quickly installing a replacement provider.
“For me, it’s very important to the County’s commitment to childcare that there be a permanent provider in place as soon as the rehab is complete next year, 2022,” she said. “And to that end, I know that there is already [a request for proposal] out to find that provider so that the ACC can re-open as soon as possible.”
The county had considered opening a childcare center in the former Clarendon House site (3141 10th Street N.) near Arlington Fire Station No. 4, in addition to the 1915 N. Uhle Street site, but the property would have required extensive renovations and the county “is no longer moving forward with that plan due to other development needs for the land,” Smith said.
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