After 20 years Frontier Preschool is closing its doors effective Sept. 30, leaving the parents of about 80 children scrambling to find childcare alternatives.
Frontier owner Doris Frerichs said she has been trying to sell the business for eight months, during which
one possible sale fell through. She is currently working with another potential buyer who wants to reopen the facility.
"I have operated this business for a long period of time for the benefit of the town and, unfortunately, my own family has come second in many instances," Frerichs said. "I stayed two years after burnout just because there is a need, and I was hoping and praying that something would open up. I'm tired."
Worried parents who were given just two weeks notice are scrambling to find other childcare alternatives. Tracy Sekandari, who manages the Payson office of a federal agency, is one of them.
"I have two children ages nine and five," Sekandari wrote in a letter to the Roundup. "Without adequate childcare my options become very disturbing."
While Sekandari has since found a woman just starting to care for children in her home, she said her alternatives would be to quit her job, or turn her children into latch-key kids, which would leave them home unsupervised for two hours each day.
"These are going to be difficult choices that the parents of (these) children are going to face in the coming weeks," Sekandari wrote. "Working parents face enough hardships as it is with juggling the balance between economic security and child rearing."
The only other full-time preschool in Payson is Community Presbyterian Learning Center. Assistant Manager Vinnie Hutchison said her school, which has a capacity of 77 children, was able to take a few of the Frontier children but others had to be added to the waiting list.
"We maintain a pretty full house most of the time," Hutchison said.
In addition to Frontier and Community Presbyterian, Payson Head Start offers a half-day program that children have to qualify for, and First Steps Preschool at Julia Randall Elementary School offers two half-day sessions.
Under the circumstances, Hutchison recommends home care -- the very alternative that Sekandari turned to.
"There's a lot of home care (in the area) and that's who has taken up most of the slack," Hutchison said. "It's really been a boon to them."
According to Frerichs, turning a profit is difficult in the preschool business unless the owner works there full time.
"If you don't work it yourself, there would be very little profit," she said. "That's what I've been doing for 18-plus years -- doing all the hard work."
Frerichs said she hopes that her facility will reopen under new ownership by the end of the year.
Sekandari can only hope her children are as happy in their new home care environment as they were at Frontier.
"My children have gone there for three years," she said. "They've been really happy there and I've been happy. The teachers are really good."