By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – London Bridges Learning Center lost its license in June, but parents say the center operated from a Milford Street house until July 30.
“They said they were remodeling” the 2651 Traceland Drive location, said Gina Morris, whose 2-year-old daughter attended London Bridges. Morris said parents were told the day care would operate in the interim at 125 Milford St.
“We had no idea until Monday” that the center had lost its state license, she said.
London Bridges Day Care lost its license following a state hearing in June, and was ordered to close by June 29, according to the hearing officer’s report released by the Mississippi Department of Health, the agency that oversees child care licensure.
On Monday, Morris and other London Bridges parents were met by Mississippi State Department of Health investigators, Tupelo’s city zoning administrator and the Tupelo fire marshal when they arrived to pick up children. Investigators told Morris the children had been taken to another location during the day before returning to the Milford house.
“My biggest concern is that I don’t know where they took her or who she was around,” Morris said.
Faye Collier, who was identified as the owner of London Bridges, received a ticket for operating a business without zoning approval. The house at 125 Milford St. is zoned as a single-family residential home, said Marilyn Vail, Tupelo zoning administrator. More citations could be issued pending further investigation, Vail said.
Beyond zoning and licensure issues, Tupelo Fire Marshal Jason Cross said there were in excess of 25 violations of the Tupelo fire code as it relates to day care centers at the Milford house and ordered it shut down as a day care.
The state health department also has an ongoing investigation and could not comment further.
The London Bridges building at 2651 Traceland Drive in west Tupelo, has been painted, and the sign outside the business now says Curious George w/Discovering Minds Learning Academy, but lists the same phone number previously listed for London Bridges.
Attempts to contact owner Willie “Faye” Collier were not successful.
The state health department report from the June 7 state hearing cites repeated violations at London Bridges for not meeting required child-to-staff ratios and allowing new staff members, who had not completed required criminal background checks, to watch children alone.
The report also cited two serious incidents. In November 2011, a child left the center and wandered a quarter-mile down the road, where he was found by workers from a nearby business.
In a January 2012 incident, a child was able to take liquid ibuprofen out of another child’s diaper bag and open it. The medicine was spilled, not ingested, but the incident particularly worried district health officer Dr. Roma Taylor.
After a Feb. 8 district hearing that considered revocation of London Bridges’ license, London Bridges’ owner, director and a staff member were to attend technical assistance training, correct violations and pass a minimum of four inspections.
The center had violations during two of the subsequent inspections – one for child-staff ratios and another for transporting children in a van without proper restraints – and had failed to correct a playground hazard.
At a state level hearing in June, the hearing officer found the center had not met the requirements set in the district hearing meeting and concurred that the center’s license should not be renewed.