Former daycare staff members question how money is managed at local church

BRYAN, Tex. (KBTX) - Daycares across Texas were given the green light this week to fully reopen but one local facility is being forced to close its doors for good and the decision has left families scrambling to find new child care services and some wondering how money is being managed.

St. Anthony Catholic Church in downtown Bryan recently notified staff of its decision to shutter the daycare program after it was temporarily closed in March due to stay-at-home orders.

"It's extremely difficult to say goodbye to it," said Shelli Peevey, the center's now-former daycare director. "This is like a death to me. I'm grieving a death and this is the funeral."

Peevey and others have spent the past two days boxing up nearly thirty years of memories. She joined the center in the early 80s and worked her way up to becoming the director.

However, she and everyone else on staff lost their jobs after church leadership decided the daycare was too much of a liability, especially during the pandemic.

"That's what they're saying but it doesn't make sense to me," said Peevey.

Nearly 80 kids were enrolled at the center at the time of its closing and Peevey says the program was making a profit. That's why she and the families were surprised when the church announced it was permanently shutting it down.

Deacon Michael Beauvais says the church was already considering a closure of the daycare last year, and with the coronavirus spreading, the leadership at St. Anthony decided it would be too risky to keep the doors open.

"The decision was made that perhaps the best thing to do is, given that everybody wasn't here anyway, if we're going to close the program now is the time to do it," said Deacon Beauvais.

Parents are furious with the way the church has handled the matter and they want to know what happened to an unknown amount of money St. Anthony's received from a government PPP loan.

"There are things that are going unaccounted for and no one knows what happened, where it went and we're kind of getting roundabout answers," said parent Amanda Gray.

"There are no answers. We requested meetings with the financial counsel, with the deacon and with the father and it just falls on deaf ears," said parent Crissy Howard.

The church says it needed time to figure out the financial impact of closing the daycare because funds from the federal emergency loan couldn't be used for employee back pay.

Still, Peevey says there should be enough money from the daycare's profits to cover those expenses.

"There should be an x-amount of dollars left that was already earmarked to pay the staff. So where is that money?" said Peevey.

On Wednesday afternoon, Deacon Beauvais told KBTX a financial committee at the church was able to run some numbers and determined there would be enough money left over after paying the staff for PTO earned to reimburse parents for some of March's tuition that was pre-paid.

They also said most of the money received from the government loan would be returned, but Deacon Beauvais couldn't provide an exact figure.

The next step for parents is to get their own daycare up and running so they can try and keep everyone together. During the period when the staff wasn't being paid, the parents established a fund for the workers, and they want to continue building on that momentum.

The group is asking if anyone wants to donate to their cause, to use the email ptolaps@gmail.com for Google pay. Checks can also be made out to PTO LAPS and mailed to 2709 Carter Creek Pkwy, Bryan, TX 77802

All money will go toward opening up a new daycare facility.

Physical donations of supplies and equipment may be accepted as well. Please contact Shelli Peevey or Alan Dock @ ptolaps@gmail.com for more information.