LITHONIA, Ga. (FOX 5 Atlanta) - The sudden closure of four Bridge Pointe Christian Academy Day Care Centers Monday morning left hundreds of DeKalb County parents scrambling for a back up plan, while others were forced to miss work.
"It's first thing in the morning and we work and now we have to try to find a place to keep our kids. We should be getting answers from the manager, but apparently, she's nowhere to be found," said Nikeisha Vincent, who was furious to find a padlock and a signed taped to the front door of the Lithonia location indicating the facility was closed "effective immediately by order of the Court."
Unable to reach anyone from Bridge Pointe, FOX 5 contacted the Department of Early Care and Learning, which governs the operations of childcare facilities and George's Pre-K Lottery programs.
Spokesman Reg Griffin said a legal dispute over the lease agreement between the childcare center and the property owner led to the abrupt closure Monday morning. He said the department had been previously notified about a court date stemming from the legal dispute and added the closure was not the result of any state violations.
But employees, who say they haven't been paid in full in weeks, feel like they, along with hundreds of parents, have been violated none the less.
"For you to let it sneak up on us and you keep telling us, 'You will have a job, just come to work, I'm going to pay you guys.' It's like you're holding the money over our head that you owe us," said Bridge Pointe cook Tokara Tellis. "You were just collecting money all last week from parents knowing that you were going to close today! How is that fair?"
Andrea Lastie, the manager of the Lithonia location, said she unlocked the back door and allowed several children to stay at the center while their parents made alternative child care provisions.
"It was cold out there and those parents didn't know what to do or where to take their kids so I just decided to open it anyway. This is very confusing, very upsetting and we just want to know why," said Lastie, who was hired when the chain opened seven years ago.
Bridge Pointe Christian Academy operated three other daycare centers in Decatur, Doraville, and Clarkston.
The woman identified by staff members as the owner could not be reached for comment. The man identified as her attorney has not returned calls to FOX 5 either.
Griffin said parents who need to quickly find childcare resources can contact the department of early care and learning at 877-ALLGAKIDS or qualityrated.org.