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First Baptist to end daycare program

First Baptist Church Suffolk has informed parents that it plans to eliminate its childcare and before- and after-school programs in June, according to a letter given to parents Wednesday morning as they were dropping off their children.

The letter states that change is the driving force behind the closure.

“First Baptist Church of Suffolk will be experiencing changes as we redirect our ministries and the use of our facilities,” the letter states.

The First Baptist Weekday School’s last day of providing childcare will be June 28, with the last day of its before- and after-care program June 14. The church also posted an announcement of the closure on its website.

“We obviously understand the impact to families,” said David Edgell, associate pastor of education and administration at First Baptist Church Suffolk. “We want to give families plenty of notice. We wanted to get that information out. I realize the difficulty, as it’s never a good time. It’s change for families (and) it’s a change for employees.”

The letter states that the church will provide information to parents on other local childcare options, and it asks any parents who withdraw their children prior to the close date to provide two weeks’ notice to the church.

Edgell said the church has already been getting inquiries from other daycare providers in Suffolk that have openings for children, and some that have staff openings.

First Baptist Church, which has been providing daycare for 54 years, has 87 children from infants through 4-year olds in the daycare program and about another 20 before- and after-school children, Edgell said. The daycare and before-and-after program employ 22 people — 18 teachers and four administrators, he said.

The letter to parents also says that all accounts will be assessed weekly until the close date, and applies to those who pay on a weekly, biweekly or monthly basis.

Edgell said it was a difficult decision to make for church leadership, which is exploring other mission opportunities.

“We really want to be more missional in our community,” Edgell said.

Maria Wiatt, who has a grandson who goes to First Baptist’s daycare program, was surprised by the decision to close.

“I’m hands-down disappointed,” Wiatt said.

The Virginia Department of Social Services website lists 28 licensed daycare providers in Suffolk, including the one at First Baptist Church, and nine unlicensed religious-exempt daycare locations. It also shows a listing for an unlicensed home-based daycare program, and eight licensed and one unlicensed home daycare programs.

To search for child care providers, go to childcareva.com.

“Sometimes you don’t like change to come, but I’m thrilled that families have had a great experience,” Edgell said.