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Tampa families scrambling as Hyde Park daycare abruptly closes at terrible time

Smart Starts off Swann Ave confirms sudden change
Posted at 6:14 PM, Jul 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-28 18:14:33-04

Today dozens of Tampa families are scrambling, and several teachers are out of their jobs, after a daycare and Voluntary PreKingergarten (VPK) program were abruptly closed.

Smart Starts, located at St. John's Church off Swann Avenue in Hyde Park's Tampa neighborhood, confirms to ABC Action News they are closing, but parents, and some teachers, say they were given very little notice, and it has put parents in a bind at the worst possible time.

"Especially this time of year, it's almost impossible to find VPK spots open because everyone has already done their hunting months ago," explains Keara McGraw, who was among the parents left out to dry by the sudden decision. Her 4-year-old daughter has been going to Smart Starts since February.

"I go to the meeting and she's like 'I guess you're the only one that doesn't know yet, but we're closing the doors next Friday,'" says McGraw to ABC Action News.

The excuse staff gave McGraw is that their funding for the VPK program was pulled due to mismanaged paperwork.

But when ABC Action News visited the school, school staff gave a different story, saying their sister school, Bridgeprep Charter, located right next door, is expanding, displacing the Smart Starts school. 

School staff says it was for financial reasons: Bridge Prep will bring their company more income, they say.

Shocking still are the signs out front of the property along Swann Avenue, still advertising the VPK program!

Their website and social media pages also make no mention of the big changes.

ABC Action News also reached out to the owners of Smart Starts and the management company of Bridgeprep Charter, both out of Miami, and both refused to comment.

Technically both schools are owned and operated by two different companies, but they are run out of the same building, and employees of Smart Starts say they're also owned by the same family in Miami.

Thankfully, McGraw says she's fortunate to have found a new VPK program for her daughter so quickly, but calls the decision to not inform her and the other parents earlier "disrespectful."

"I couldn't imagine what it's like if you couldn't find a place. We lucked out," says McGraw.