By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

The sign on the door claims Iris Valley Learning Center, 530 Dietz Avenue N.E., was closed by the Oregon Department of Human Services due to “paperwork issues.”

The truth is that the closure came after repeated violations of staffing and sanitation rules for child care facilities.

“Going back several years, we would find issues at the site related to staff or sanitation and we would add additional support and supervision. Things would improve for a while then go back to where they were when we stepped in,” said Dawn Woods, child care director for the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) early learning division.

In March, representatives of ODE notified owner Connie Williams they intended to revoke her license, but Williams did not respond. About two weeks ago, another complaint was received about the site and ODE officials made another visit to Iris Valley. After discovering that conditions had deteriorated again, the decision was made to shut it down.

Parents who planned to drop off their children Tuesday, April 4, found a note on the door notifying them of the closure and directing them to call 2-1-1 to find alternate care. The site is permitted to care for up to 115 children of varying ages.

“We want people to know that this is not a move we made lightly. We realize that shutting down a daycare of any size is an issue and this was a larger one,” Woods said.

DHS case workers respond to all complaints within three days of receiving them.

In addition to sanitation concerns, there were repeated violations of staffing rules. Daycare sites are required to have one staff member for every four infants, every five toddlers, every 10 preschoolers and every 15 school age kids. Citing just one example of  Iris Valley violations, Woods said representatives of DHS found one staff member in a room with eight infants.

“It’s not like we were there under cover of night, our staff lets everyone know when they are there,” said Richard Riggs, legal administrator for the ODE early learning division. “It becomes a situation where if this is happening while we are there, what is happening when we aren’t?”

Riggs noted that no action is being taken against Williams personally aside from the process to revoke her license. Williams has obtained an attorney and notified DHS of her intention to request a stay on her revocation, Riggs said.

There is no timeline for how long the proceedings might take.