AUSTIN (KXAN) — A South Austin day care owner admits two children managed to sneak away Wednesday morning without anyone noticing. Austin police received a call just before 11 a.m. saying two children were in the middle of Stassney Lane near South Congress Avenue.
Elizabeth Kempf and her husband have been running Austin South Christian Academy for 10 years. They say an incident of this magnitude has never happened. They understand parents entrust them with their children and say the incident has been very hard on them.
“The thing that a director dreads the most in life is something like this happening,” said Kempf. “A child went through two different doors. One of which had a child-protective cover on it. He opened it, and another little child followed him.”
Day care officials self-reported the incident to the state. Kempf says day cares are required to keep all doors unlocked and that their hands are tied. The center wants to install higher doorknobs, but Kempf said she can’t because it is a fire hazard. The fire marshal’s office said Friday there are no rules against moving the doorknobs higher.
“We are supposed to keep the children safe, but yet we can’t lock a door behind us,” said Kempf. “The word ‘Sorry’ just doesn’t do it. It could have been a tragedy; I’m just thankful to God it wasn’t.”
Many of the parents who trust their children with the Kempfs are standing by them.
“God willing, they pull through this,” said Nasreen Rouin, mother of two. “And all goes well because my daughter loves this place.”
The Texas Department of Family and Protective services lists 33 deficiencies for Austin South Christian Academy over the last two years. All are listed as being corrected at the time of inspection or after.
Some of the violations included leaving a wading pool with water accessible to children, having exposed tripping hazards on the playground and staff members who were unaware of the number of students in their care.
The day care has not had an inspection with the fire marshal’s office since January 2014, and are overdue for an inspection. The office says the day care is responsible for setting up that appointment.
Editor’s Note: In a previous version of this story, Kempf told KXAN it was a fire hazard to install higher doorknobs. The fire marshal’s office said there are no rules against installing higher doorknobs.