(WOODLAND PARK, Colo.) — A daycare director has been cited after a little boy walked out the front doors of his preschool in Woodland Park, going unnoticed for nearly 15 minutes.
This happened in January at the Woodland Park Community Church Learning Center.
The boy’s parents say they are talking about this now, because they did not want to impact the investigation, and feel like the preschool never made it clear to other parents how differently this situation could have ended, had it not been for the watchful eye of a neighbor.
“Well, that day I actually got a phone call at 2:08 p.m., and it was from The Learning Center saying I just needed to come down right away that there was something wrong and that the police had my son,” said Riker Price’s mother, Miranda Price.
Surveillance footage from The Learning Center at Woodland Park Community Church on January 19, 2023 shows Riker walking out the front doors of the daycare and taking off down a trail. Thankfully, a good Samaritan saw the little boy – barefoot in the snow with no coat – followed him, and called police.
Here’s a timeline of what The Learning Center says happened, according to their surveillance video.
Riker had gone to use the restroom at 1:23 that afternoon. At 1:24, a teacher checks on Riker and then returns to the room.
Then six minutes later, the teacher checks on him again and goes back to the classroom. Another six minutes go by, and at 1:36 Riker walks out the front door of the school. It’s not until 1:43 that two teachers realize Riker is missing and start looking for him.
The police report shows at 1:44, officers responded and found Riker. Riker was a little cold, but otherwise just fine.
Police body camera video shows the picture of relief – a mother reunited with her curious son.
“He was crying and emotional and everything. And of course, all the people at The Learning Center that I saw were crying, too. It was very emotional for everybody,” said Miranda.
The Prices said they are now just confused as to why they were not notified as soon as the daycare realized Riker was missing.
“I don’t understand why nobody called me,” Miranda said. “And they said, ‘Well, we thought that he was in the building.’ Like, okay and I didn’t really get a whole lot more information than that.”
The police report shows a child abuse charge, Criminal Negligence No Injury, was filed against the school and the director was cited.
“[Riker] walked past both entrances of his classroom, the director’s office and another classroom, and struggled with the front door to get out the front door and nobody saw. And so you’re as a parent, questioning how is no one around to see this?”
The Colorado Department of Early Childhood sent FOX21 News this statement in regards to the incident:
“On March 6, 2023, the Colorado Department of Early Childhood (CDEC) initiated a Stage II licensing investigation at Woodland Park Community Church Learning Center in response to information that Teller County Child Protection had conducted a Stage I investigation concerning an incident at the facility. The investigation revealed several licensing violations, including but not limited to, lack of supervision, missing staff qualifications, interfering with a child protection investigation, not following the program’s lost child policy, and failure to report the incident within required timeframes. In light of these findings, the program was submitted for adverse action. On April 21, 2023, the Division of Early Learning Licensing and Administration (DELLA), licensing staff recommended placing the program on probation. The Department will make a final determination on the recommended licensing action in June 2023.”
“There was the email that went out to the families and says, ‘Oh, we started looking for him and called the parents’. No, you didn’t. You called the parents after the police came to you and ask you, ‘Hey, you guys missing a child?'” said Riker’s dad, Randy Price.
The Learning Center sent FOX21 News the following statement:
The safety of the children and staff of the WPCC Learning Center is very important to us. This is the first incident of this kind in over 20 years of operation but it has shown us some areas that needed improvement. Since this incident occurred we have installed additional security cameras throughout the entire facility. We installed door alarms on all exterior doors that send a notification to the Directors office anytime the door is opened. All of our procedures have been reviewed and updated including the lost child procedure.
An external operational improvement team has been established and has been actively involved in reviewing procedures and assisting in implementation. The people on the team have extensive experience in Early Childhood Education, Safety and Health, Business and Finance.
Immediately following the incident, we closed the Learning Center for two days and brought in outside trainers to make sure our staff understood the State requirements as well as our new procedures.
It is unfortunate that it took an incident like this to point out our deficiencies but it is making our Learning Center a safer place for the families of Woodland Park and Teller County.The Learning Center
“I’m so grateful for all of these things that they put in place to protect children in the future. But I believe really strongly in transparency, especially when it comes to the safety of children, and that they should be forthcoming with people about the extent of what happened, where they failed. And then this is how they’re going to make it better,” said Miranda.
And as for the neighbor with the watchful eye, Miranda has this to say to her.
“Gosh, we just appreciate you so much.”