Durham day care’s abrupt closing catches parents off guard

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – A Durham day care suddenly closed and left parents with no one to watch their children and no way to get their money back.

And as CBS North Carolina’s Steve Sbraccia learned, it’s not the first day care center owned by the same person that shut down without warning.

Parents whose children attended the Learning Garden Day Care Center in Durham reached out to CBS North Carolina after they received an email saying it was closing immediately leaving many personal belongings locked in — and many parents holding the bag.

That email arrived just after 7:30 Monday evening.

One parent with two children at the facility told Sbraccia it closed just 3 days after monthly tuition was collected — a tuition for her that totaled $2,100.

She said parents pay about $1,000 a child per month and that about 20 children attended the facility which the state says is licensed to care for up to 28 children.

Records CBS North Carolina pulled from the Secretary of State’s Office show the Learning Garden is owned by Jennifer M. Dixon.

In an email to parents obtained by CBS North Carolina, Dixon said they were behind on their rent and received an eviction notice from the buildings owner.

Sbraccia discovered Dixon has another job as a real estate agent so he went to that company trying to talk to her about the situation.

Sbraccia spoke to an employee of the real estate firm CBS North Carolina has chosen not to identify.

“You just missed her. She was here earlier but had to run,” said the employee.

That employee called Dixon on CBS North Carolina’s behalf and Dixon told the employee she wasn’t coming back to the office.

Sbraccia left his contact information with the employee asking her to provide that to Dixon.

The Durham facility isn’t the only one Dixon owns.

The BBB lists two complaints from parents who sent their children to the Learning Garden in Lake Norman, North Carolina.

Those complaints say the Lake Norman facility closed without warning on Nov. 6.

In her email to Durham area parents, Dixon complained building maintenance has been a challenge and that she’s used her own money to fix it up because the owner has been unwilling to help maintain it.

Late this afternoon building owner Mark Heizer spoke with CBS North Carolina.

He says day care owner Jennifer Dixon stop paying rent in October after running the place for about 10 years.

He says he sent three different people to Dixon, who would be willing to purchase the day care business and keep it open and he doesn’t know why she didn’t take any of those offers.

Heizer says Dixon had been talking with him about the financial situation at the day care center — but broke off that contact on Monday with no explanation.

In her email, Dixon said she will try and sell all the equipment in the Durham building as quickly as possible so she can to repay every parent who is owed money.

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