Daycare at burned Middletown church not reopening

The daycare center inside a burned out Middletown church won’t reopen, a decision that angered one mother whose two children have attended Building Strong Foundations Learning Center since it opened in 2002.

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Tytus Avenue First Church of God, 330 Tytus Ave., suffered major structural damage during a fire on Jan. 22, a fire that was later determined to be an arson. A 16-year-old boy was sent to a rehabilitation program for setting fire to the church and vandalizing a gas station.

After the fire, the daycare center, which operated at the church for 15 years, was moved to two temporary locations and parents were told it would reopen inside the church once it was rebuilt, possibly within six months, said Rhonda Soppanish, a concerned parent.

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The pastor of Tytus Avenue, the Rev. Damon Curtis, sent out a letter to parents this week. He wrote that after “much prayer and discussion” the church’s leadership decided to close the daycare. Curtis said the rebuild process has “taken longer than anyone anticipated.”

He said the planning and design of the new church will not have a daycare facility.

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Soppanish said she was “angry, hurt and upset” by the timing of the decision. She said parents will have one more week to find daycare for their children. Soppanish said most centers were closed on Thanksgiving and Friday.

She wrote parents were led to believe the children were “part of a family, and now they are being left behind, with no real idea of where they will be going.”

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Her son, now 19, started at the daycare center in 2002, and her 11-year-old still attends the center. After the fire, the children were cared for at Breiel Boulevard Church of God, then Christ United Methodist Church, she said.

“None of these places were intended to be long term,” Soppanish wrote in a letter to this media outlet. “It was believed the church would rebuild quickly and the daycare would be back in their home.”

Soppanish also said she was upset that no work has been done on the church in the 10 months since the fire.

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