A summer camp that is using space at Coggeshall School will be shut down as of Monday Aug. 19, according to Newport School Committee Chairman Charles Shoemaker.
The camp, is operated by Tender Care Learning Center, which is under investigation after the 17-year-old son of co-owner Gregory Johnson was arrested Tuesday for second degree child molestation. The teenager, who remains in custody, allegedly put his hands up a 5-year-old girl’s shorts.
It is unclear if the day care paid to use the facilities, although many committee members believe no money was exchanged.
On Saturday afternoon, Shoemaker said he received communication from Superintendent John Amborgi that the camp would not open on Monday; but he was unsure what prompted the decision.
On Friday afternoon, DCYF ordered an immediate suspension of Tender Care Learning Center, located at at Marcus Wheatland Boulevard after they discovered several regulatory violations.
A DCYF official said that although the agency was also investigating Johnson’s home daycare on Gould Street, they did not have jurisdiction over the summer camp.
Although Shoemaker referred to the arrangement as a “collaboration,” most committee members claimed they were unaware the city owned property was being used until neighbors complained earlier this month.
Committee Member Robert Leary said he “felt like a fool” when two residents called with concerns because the superintendent did not tell committee members about the arrangement.
One of those neighbors, David Hanos, referred to the camp as “shady.”
“It’s gypsy run outfit. I think it’s shady,” Hanos told Patch on Friday. He said there are at least 40 kids at the camp everyday. “There are certainly not enough staff for the number of kids.”
Hanos said the staff “piles” the kids in vans to transport them back and forth.
“They aren’t in seat belts or car seats,” he said. Hanos said the typical day begins as early as 7:15 a.m. with Johnson blaring his car horn for staff to come out. When his wife asked Johnson if he could keep the noise down, Johnson was reportedly confrontational.
“That’s the mentality,” said Hanos. “They aren’t good neighbors. The kids are not the issue. The issue is the staff.”
Although Ambrogi referred to the company as “not-for-profit,” Tender Care Learning Center is a for-profit entity according to corporate filings and the company’s co-owner Peter Gallipeau.
“[The schools] are public facilities, we always try to make them available to local not-for-profit organizations based on availability,” said Ambrogi at the Aug. 13 school committee meeting. The arrest had not been reported by the media at that time.
“My big concern is that we need to look at the policy,” Leary pushed. “I didn’t know Coggeshall was being used. I had no knowledge of it.”
Ambrogi responded, “If the school committee wants to be a apprised of it...that’s different from what we have done.”
On Friday, Ambrogi reportedly told committee members the camp would continue to run into September, which prompted several members to prepare an emergency meeting for Monday morning. Once the superintendent notified members Saturday afternoon that the camp would be closed, plans for the meeting were canceled.
Shoemaker said he did not agree with the majority that an emergency meeting was necessary.
“In order to set up an emergency meeting, there would have to be a threat to safety. The guy is locked up,” he said. “There is no imminent danger.”
Committee member Robert Power agreed there was no need for immediate action. “I would like to know what DCYF thinks before I do anything,” said Power.
Committee Member Rebecca Bolan disagreed completely. “The number one thing is we have to get the school closed down,” she said, citing the uncertainties about licensing, liabilities and insurance.
“It’s unclear if they have signed a lease agreement,” said Leary. “If they insurance. What did they charge? They should had been charged,” he added.
Ambrogi has not provided proof of signed documentation, insurance or payment information.
Without a rental agreement, the camp’s legal entity remains unclear, but a sign pinned to the day care’s location on Marcus Wheatland Boulevard, advertises the camp as “Tender Care Summer Camp 2013” with the same number and address as the day care.