Numerous serious safety concerns, almost all of which were downplayed and left unresolved by management, led us to remove our son from this facility. For example:
1) When my son was only a few months old, I entered one of the classrooms to find him chewing on a piece of sharp plastic (that apparently broke off of one of the car seats that are stashed in the back of the classroom) while one of the teachers sat directly in front of him zoned out. The Principal's initial response was "unfortunately these things happen," which did not give me confidence that the teachers and management took this situation seriously. This was further confirmed when my suggested changes were dismissed and no action was taken to prevent the issue from happening again.
2) At the end of the day, children from two classrooms up (up to over 2 years old) were merged into the infant room to curb costs of keeping additional teachers on the clock. Because the infants were not mobile and not yet old enough for vaccinations, this put them at risk for physical harm and unnecessary exposure to disease (like flu and RSV, which can be serious or fatal for infants). The owner did not even know this practice was taking place in his school, and management pushed back with intensity, claiming that the teachers prevent accidents and sanitize each toy before cross-contamination can occur. My experience with the plastic incident made this statement laughable.
3) My son's fingers were closed in one of the classroom doors, most of which lack slowing mechanisms. Because I had seen the children slam the doors while the teachers were distracted, the potential for finger breakages and amputations were a real threat, in my opinion (and based on my research). Management considered installing a slowing device and even ordered the mechanism, but when it failed to fit the doors, they gave up. To my knowledge, the doors on the older classrooms still are able to slam shut.
4) On several occasions, we picked up our son from outside during the heat of the summer and he was red faced and desperate for water. We noticed that the teachers carried their water bottled outside, though. The teachers accommodated our request to take my son's sippy cup outside during playtime, but the other kids often went without, despite their pleas (which I heard when I picked up my son).
5) The final straw was when my son came home with 5 accident reports in a little over a month (he got bit several times) and management refused to provide us with (non-identifying) information that would help us better understand the situation and restore any shred of confidence that he was going to come home in one piece.
The teachers kept books locked up in closets so that the kids would not "tear them up" and I watched the children (on the cameras) play in the water for 15 minutes at a time with no supervision. The toddler classes were overcrowded (sometimes upwards of 16 kids running amuck) which made it hard for the teachers to actually teach a curriculum. In my opinion, this is not an academic environment and my son was not being challenged.
All that said, there were a few shining stars (teachers) at Kiddie Academy and I did appreciate the cameras. The trouble was that I found myself constantly watching the cameras to make sure my son was not being harmed. The cameras and prices at KA kept us there for too long.
Our son is now thriving at a new school and we have had very few issues, all of which have been promptly addressed. We have not looked back since leaving Kiddie Academy of Ashburn.
Response from the provider:
The only way for us to continue to grow and excel is to listen to our families and friends. With that said, I would like to provide a context around your review :
Transparency & Accessibility: We are one of the few centers that provides direct camera access to all of our families, so that they can log on at any given time, and observe the learning and care that their young ones receive. Our camera not only provide a piece of mind for our moms and dads at work for viewing, but it is also a tool to showcase the daily dedication and hard work of our staff. Our camera system was implemented from Day 1, and that is a strong commitment to transparency and Accessibility.
Nurturing: We understand that transitions from one classroom to another can be hard on some children. Often time the change of classrooms may result in a change of behavior in children, accompanied by physical development such as teething, which may result in biting; the biting behavior falters after few weeks, and we have to work with all the children, and be inclusive to help them go through that stage. Also, out of respect for the privacy of the child biting or hitting, we can't disclose their information even when one makes several attempt to request that information. We do however work with their family to ease the transition, and alleviate the impact on the classroom through positive reinforcement; our families appreciate and expect that, since we are a learning facility.
Hygiene: We have a professional cleaning crew that comes and clean/sanitize the school every night and on weekends. In addition to that, we have invested this year in hospital grade sanitizing equipment to reduce illnesses in the classrooms. This equipment is used nightly in sensitive classroom areas to reduce and/or prevent spread of illness to other classrooms. We take a proactive approach to help provide a clean and a safe environment for our children, and for our staff.
Facility: We are very proud of our facility and its craftsmanship. We often get complimented on our layout and our classrooms design. There are a lot of safety features that are very subtle throughout the facility. All of our doors have a safety finger hinge-side to prevent or lessen the severity of the accidents if they happen. I understand that part of your review was regarding putting slowing mechanism to the door. We did listen to your feedback when you approached us with it; we inquired about various options. We bought hardware to see if we can mimic the slowing mechanism, and even consulted with professionals for a workaround. As you know, we don't have full doors in the preschool, and pre-K classrooms. All of our doors are half-doors, and this ties with our concept and design that provides a transparent, and a warm school environment. It also allows us to work together as a team, in case someone is in need of help, and they can't get out of their classrooms. The install of the hardware would have caused the door, and hardware to lose its integrity; also as a reference, we are compliant with more than 165 Kiddie Academy centers nationwide and our respective state requirements.
Last but not least, our management team is committed to go above and beyond what is required, and that is why 97% of our families in our most recent survey said they will recommend us to their friends. We also have one of the highest parent employee to child ratio in our area (i.e. 20% of our staff that work in our preschool have their children in our center). In their own rights, they believe in our mission and care. With that said, we appreciate the trust that all our families and community continue to put in us. [Karim B. Owner]