MIDLAND, Texas (KMID/KPEJ)- A Midland Daycare is speaking out after two separate incidents involving its students. Owners of Animal Krackers Learning Center confirmed the school is currently under investigation after a teacher was accused of injuring a student– the school is cooperating with investigators in that case. Another investigation was also launched following a fire drill that left a one-year-old girl with burns on the bottoms of her feet.
The mother of the girl said her daughter’s feet were injured during a surprise fire drill when the toddler went outside without her shoes. She said doctors said her daughter received second-degree burns on July 25- the child’s feet were treated with burn ointment and wrapped following the incident. Now doctors are just waiting for the skin to heal, but the little girl has reportedly been unable to wear shoes since and was told to stay off her feet as much as possible.
Viviana Catano said she doesn’t want this to happen to another child. And day care owners said they don’t either.
In fact, following the fire drill, owners said they self-reported the situation to the agency that issues and enforces its license to operate. While the case remains under investigation, the center has already made some changes to help keep its kids safe.
Prior to the incident, the center was inspected by licensing and was asked to not only conduct fire drills in the morning- as the school had been- but to also implement them throughout the day, even if it meant waking kids from a nap. That’s what happened in this case, owners said. Around 3:50 in the afternoon the fire alarm was pulled, and teachers escorted everyone inside outdoors.
“We can’t tell them a drill is coming because if a real fire breaks out, we want everyone inside to get out quickly and not walk out slowly,” one owner said.
In this case, the napping children were taken outside without their shoes. Two children, including Catano’s, were placed on the ground.
“The teachers saw the children hopping around and grabbed them and brought them in immediately,” the center said. “They contacted the parents immediately…it was a big deal to us. They cleaned their feet and helped them and called their parents.”
Catano said when she arrived to check on her daughter she was “shaking badly” and didn’t want to move.
The school said, “It wasn’t deliberate at all.” And the situation has prompted changes so that nothing like this ever happens again. In fact, children must now keep their shoes on at all times.
“We feel so bad about it,” one owner said. “All we can do is try to do better in the future.”
Owners said in twenty years of business, nothing like this- two investigations into two injured children- has ever happened. And the center wants to make sure it can protect its students and its staff. On the heels of the arrest of an employee accused of pinching and injuring a 3-year-old boy’s ear, the center said a new $10,000 security system will be installed as early as Thursday.
The cameras were not working when these two incidents occurred- they have been broken since COVID shut the center down for months. The school initially hoped to repair its existing camera system- but the parts were delayed repeatedly.
Once the new system is installed, owners said there will be cameras in every room as well as at each entrance and exit point. The cameras will be monitored by four different people and can be monitored by the owners remotely. The new system will include audio as well.
Still, the staff and even some parents were left reeling after the arrest last weekend.
“I can’t imagine her doing anything like that,” one owner said of the employee who was accused- she’s been employed off and on for about eight years. “If I thought she was an abusive person- she wouldn’t be here, and I would not defend her. We won’t judge until we know all the facts; let the system do its job.”
No matter the outcome of either investigation, owners said, “We’re gonna do what’s right, that’s all there is to it. It’s a stressful job, but in the long run, it’s a blessing…it’s a calling for some people. It’s the best feeling in the world to go home when a child has hugged you that day or told you that they love you. And we have the love these children need.”
Owners want to reassure the community that they are willing to address any concerns from current or future parents.
“We’re trying to do the very best for the kids,” the center said.
As for Catano, she said her daughter is no longer attending the day care and she is hoping she will learn more about the incident that left her daughter injured when the investigation into the situation is concluded. She also wants the day care center to do all it can to make things right.
“I hope that by getting my baby girl’s story out there this will prevent other babies from enduring the pain my daughter suffered. And I hope the daycare realizes it wasn’t just a burn. We are still dealing with pain, the medical visits, the trauma. And I hope they can make it right going forward,” Catano said.