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Learning Center fires two after September incident

State OKs action plan that included construction of a 5-foot high chain-link fence to keep children in play area, away from 202

PETERBOROUGH — The Monadnock Community Early Learning Center replaced a plastic mesh fence surrounding its outdoor play area with a 5-foot-tall chain-link mesh fence, following an incident on Sept. 4 when two children got under the old fence and wandered to the edge of nearby Route 202. The children were spotted by a passing motorist, who stopped, returned the children to the child-care center and reported the incident to police, who spoke to staffers at the center.

Two employees who had been supervising the children on the playground were fired shortly after the incident.

“We take supervision very seriously,” said Amie Patterson, director of the center, on Friday.

On Monday, Debra Vaughan, executive director of the Learning Center, said center officials held a parent meeting shortly after the incident and have not noticed any decline in enrollment.

“We also reviewed with our board the policies for safety and supervision,” Vaughan said. “We reviewed them with the teachers and we’re following the procedure we put in place.”

Vaughan said the two children involved in the September incident still attend the center.

In response to the incident, Licensing Coordinator Kathy MacKenzie from the Child Care Licensing Unit of the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services visited the center on Sept. 9, where she interviewed staff members and inspected the play area. According to her report, the center was in compliance with staff to children ratios at the time of the incident, but the two staff members failed to adequately supervise the two children, who had gotten out of the play area through a small opening where pins at the bottom of the fence had come loose. MacKenzie also noted other areas where the fencing could easily be dislodged, and observed a large gate that was not equipped with a child-proof self-latching device.

In a corrective action plan submitted after the Sept. 9 visit, the center’s officials reported that two staffers had been terminated “for failure to adequately supervise the children in their care.” They also said supervision policies had been reviewed with all staff, additional staff trainings would focus on accurate attendance recording, and staff would be doing frequent matching face to name checks when doing headcounts in the play area. The center also promised to install the 5-foot chain link fence that would meet licensing requirements and redesign the back gate to have doorways and a childproof self-latching device.

The Child Licensing Unit gave final approval to the corrective action plan on Nov. 13, following an inspection of the fence.

Melissa Clement, a child-care licensing specialist with the Child Care Licensing Unit, said on Monday that no additional visits to the center are planned, now that the action plan has been approved.

“All programs have unannounced visits at least once a year,” Clement said. “At a future monitoring visit, we will ensure that they are complying with the plan.”

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