A Center Grove area day care that was taken over by new owners after its state license was revoked shut down suddenly last week.
Smiley’s Early Learning Center, 2503 Fairview Place, closed Friday after the owner discovered money she was paying to the center’s previous owner was not being applied to bank payments and taxes, Smiley’s spokeswoman Joyce Yant said.
More than $27,000 in back taxes, stormwater liens and late fees are due on the Center Grove building, and the property is listed in this year’s tax sale, according to the Johnson County Treasurer’s Office. Smiley’s Franklin location on Lovers Lane, which also closed earlier this summer, has about $15,000 in overdue taxes.
The state had previously ordered the day care center to close when it was Kid Co. Childcare and Preschool, after a parent made a complaint that staff dragged a child down a hallway by his feet and the center was cited for multiple health, safety and staffing violations. Last year, Kid Co.’s owner Prashith Srivastava sold the Center Grove center and the second location in Franklin to Sherita Newbern, who reopened it as Smiley’s.
Newbern recently discovered that payments she was making to Srivastava weren’t being used to pay the necessary bills, Yant said. Under their agreement, Newbern made payments to Srivastava, who was supposed to then pay for the building costs for both locations, Yant said.
“She was making payments for the rent or lease agreements and those payments were not going to the bank. The inevitable was the bank doesn’t care about the ignorance,” Yant said.
Srivastava could not be reached Tuesday.
The Center Grove area day care had as many as 80 children enrolled earlier this year but was down to 17 before it closed Friday, Yant said. Staff had given parents information about other nearby day care centers that were accepting children so they could quickly find a new child care location, she said.
The state had taken disciplinary action against Smiley’s shortly after Newbern purchased the business, but code violations didn’t cause the center to shut down.
Smiley’s was put on probation by the state in January after one of the day care’s buses was involved in an accident and state inspectors found several safety violations. That six-month probation term was set to end this month, and the state was not preparing to take any further disciplinary action against the day care, Indiana Family and Social Services Administration spokesperson Marni Lemons said.
“We had done beautifully. We had done everything on the list. The person who had checked us said there were some minor things, but the all-clear was about to happen,” Yant said.
Newbern needed to shut down both centers in order to break free from the agreement with Srivastava, Yant said. Newbern is planning to look for a new location and reopen as a ministry day care, Yant said.