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Chaffee county child care center had 'consistent and repeated' licensing violations

Two workers at The Schoolhouse in Poncha Springs face misdemeanor charges.

PONCHA SPRINGS, Colo. — A Chaffee County child care facility where two workers face misdemeanor charges had "consistent and repeated child care licensing violations," according to a letter from the state notifying the facility that its license was suspended.

The Schoolhouse is operated by the Chaffee Childcare Initiative and has been licensed by the state since August 2020.

The letter from the Colorado Department of Early Childhood says that on Jan. 24, the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office and the Chaffee County Department of Human Services began a joint investigation regarding suspected child abuse or neglect that occurred at the facility earlier in the month.

On Jan. 26, two staff members were issued summons on suspicion of failure to report child abuse or neglect, and of knowingly placing a child in a situation that poses a threat of injury, the Sheriff's Office said.

Details about what happened to warrant the summons have not been made public.

A statement posted on The Schoolhouse's Facebook page says that the facility "became aware of a three-to-five-minute time period in one of our classrooms, during which the teacher-to-child ratio was not met, as required by Colorado Childcare Rules & Regulations. At no time were the children without adult supervision."

The statement goes on to say that the Chaffee Childcare Initiative reported the incident to the Department of Human Services.

A follow-up statement says they're continuing to support both employees and are "eager for their opportunity to share the true facts of the situation" and they look forward to both being "cleared of all charges."

The letter from the state outlines violations by the center that include missing, expired or incomplete emergency and disaster preparedness training. The facility was also "noncompliant" with training related to shaken baby/abusive head trauma prevention and child abuse and neglect prevention training, the letter alleges.

It also alleges that the center had missing or incomplete child health statements and that the licensee was cited for violations related to indoor and outdoor spaces or materials that were unsafe or contained potential hazards.

According to the letter, the department has "reasonable grounds" to believe the licensee is guilty of "willful and deliberate violations" and that operation of the center presents a "substantial danger" to safety. It noted "substantial evidence" that the licensee or a person employed by the licensee committed an act of child abuse.

The license for The Schoolhouse was temporarily suspended Jan. 25 and a formal suspension was put in place starting Jan. 31, which required the license to be immediately surrendered.

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