A new day care center scheduled to open this summer in Clifton Park will feature enhanced security, including bullet-resistant doors and 32 video cameras.
Though many day care centers have more security now than they did five or 10 years ago, SmartEarly Learning Center will build in even more safety features because of recent tragedies, including the December massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, said owner John Max Miller.
“Mainly it’s because of what’s happened lately,” Miller said. “We’re going to be putting a bullet-resistant coating on all entrance doors.”
All windows will be shatter-resistant to help prevent someone from breaking one and entering the building.
The state requires windows that are 36 inches or less off the ground to be shatter-resistant, so children don’t hurt themselves if the glass breaks. SmartEarly Learning Center will make all of its windows shatter-resistant, even though they’re higher than 36 inches, Miller said.
“We’re taking the steps necessary to minimize that possibility,” he said.
The security features will be subtle enough that children won’t notice.
“I don’t want the place to look like a jail,” he said. “My hope is that all we’re doing is offering higher levels of safety, and due to that, a parent might choose us instead of another center.”
He will renovate a one-story, 10,000-square-foot building at 39 Fire Road over the next few months to make it into a day care center.
SmartEarly Learning Center will start taking children in July and accommodate as many as 120 children from infants to age 6 in its 11 classrooms, Miller said.
Its prices will fall at the “mid to high” level, around $275 a week for an infant and $230 a week for a preschooler.
There’s a mix of security at area day care centers, said Mary Hafner, former president of the New York State Head Start Association and executive director of Warren County Head Start.
“I think it depends on the centers and where they’re located,” Hafner said, explaining that some Head Start centers have surveillance cameras in classrooms, while others do not. “If you’re renting space, you may not be able to do all the things you want to do.”
SmartEarly Learning Center will have cameras both inside and outside the facility, and Miller and center administrators will be able to view feeds remotely on their computers.
Many centers have locked doors and a card swipe system or a keypad with codes that parents and teachers are given.
“Day care centers, I think, have been more conscious of security systems in place for children and their staff,” Hafner said.
Kidz Lodge Daycare in Clifton Park, part of the Southern Saratoga YMCA, has secure access, with both a swipe card and pass code required to get into the hallways leading to classrooms, said Kindra McHale, executive director of that branch.
Abbe Kovacik, executive director of the Capital District Child Care Coordinating Council in Menands, hadn’t heard of any other day care centers touting bullet-resistant doors. But she said video monitoring in classrooms is popular among those facilities that have it.
“I think that people do it primarily for review of classrooms, so they can keep track of children,” she said. Administrators can see if something happens in the classroom and the teachers may need help, like a child falling.
And parents enjoy seeing their children on the cameras; some day care centers offer password-protected remote access to camera feeds for parents.
“They can watch their children interact with other children,” said Kovacik, whose council refers parents to local day care centers in Albany, Fulton, Montgomery, Saratoga, Schenectady and Rensselaer counties.
Parents who call and ask for referrals rarely ask about physical security, said Tricia Howland, parent services director for the coordinating council.
“I would say very few ever ask about security features,” she said, with parents are more interested in the process of background checks for teachers, which the state requires.
SmartEarly Learning Center already has two locations in Connecticut owned by the founder, April Lukasic, a longtime friend of Miller. Together, they hope to open 10 to 20 new day care centers in Connecticut and New York over the next several years, Miller said.
Miller is an entrepreneur who has made his living buying, expanding and selling various businesses over the past 30 years, including automotive, tooth-whitening and audio-visual companies, he said.