A Special Announcement from Pastor Steve

 

Dear DUMC Family,

I regret having to inform you of difficult news regarding the Preschool Ministry at DUMC.  We have been made aware that five out of seven rooms currently used for Preschool are not in compliance with fire codes.  Specifically at issue, is the requirement that each room must have two exits with one of the exits (egress) leading directly outside to ground level.  We first became aware that we may have an issue while consulting with an architect, who performed a comprehensive examination of our facility usage.  Following his direction, the Board of Trustees undertook proper due diligence to ensure that we are in compliance with all pertinent regulations.  Unfortunately, we have discovered that we do not have a physical structure that can support a Preschool ministry at this time.  This information dictated the need to address the situation immediately. The Lincoln County Fire Marshal attended the May 1st Administrative Board meeting as a guest of the Board of Trustees to answer questions regarding this situation.

What we found out?

  • We are in violation of the fire code for Preschool use.  We are not in violation for Sunday morning use or any other children’s church programs that are short term in nature, such as Summer Camp and VBS.
  • The two rooms on the 2nd floor of the FLC walking track, used by Preschool, are immediately off limits as they are considered 2nd floor rooms per fire code.
  • We can continue using three rooms in the Pre-K area that are in violation.  The Fire Marshal is giving us a 30 day window to either correct the problem or cease using the rooms.  The Preschool year will finish during this time period.
  • Changing what we call this ministry does not matter - the code has the same implications whether we call it “Mother’s Morning Out” or “Enrichment Program” or anything else.
  • Other church Preschools that appear similar to our physical space may or may not be in compliance.  Each situation is different based on when, how, and what fire preventive measures are in place. There are often preventative measures such as fire corridors and sprinkler systems that are not easily identifiable.

What’s Next?

  • There is a chance we may have filed for and received a “Change of Use” permit in 2009 when the program began.  If this is the case, it is possible that the code in 2009 allowed for the use of those rooms. Therefore, we could be “grandfathered” under an older code statute that will allow us to continue using those spaces for Preschool.  The Trustees are currently investigating this possibility.
  • We have reached out to a local architect to conduct a walk-through of the space to let us know if there are any options for us to be compliant.  The Administrative Board will meet on Wednesday, May 15th to review this information, and to make decisions based on the facts that arise from this research.

What Happens to Preschool?

  • It is difficult to see how DUMC can offer this ministry for the 2019/2020 school year.  Regardless of what permit information we receive or what the architect suggests, the FLC rooms are off limits, effectively eliminating space for 28 of our 80 students.
  • We anticipate that the necessary changes for the space will include such items as fire walls, fire rated corridors, and/or sprinkler systems.  The time and money that would be needed for these changes (along with approval processes for construction/permits) does not align with the beginning of the 2019/2020 school year.
  • For these reasons, parents and teachers are being advised that DUMC will not have a Preschool next year.
  • If the situation changes as new information is obtained, and we can reasonably and responsibly provide for the safety of the Preschool children, I anticipate continuing  this ministry.
  • For now, we are placing the four year old classes in the CORC.  Please be patient with this disruption as it will impact all groups that use that space.
  • Our insurer will be part of any decisions regarding how or if the Preschool ministry continues.  We cannot place lives and livelihoods at risk by placing the church in a position to not be covered in the event of a fire, or any other incident that may lead to a child being harmed.

Finally, there are a lot of conversations swirling around our community about this situation.  Listed above are the facts of the situation. Please refer to these facts when discussing this with friends and neighbors. There have been accusations that the church does not support or want the Preschool. This is false. DUMC has faithfully provided space, utilities, cleaning, and bookkeeping services for the Preschool at no charge since it started 10 years ago.  Another rumor states that one or two individuals sought to undermine the program by calling the Fire Marshal. This is a dangerous and harmful falsehood that has caused significant hurt for people who had absolutely nothing to do with this situation.  Still, other stories are that the church wanted the space back strictly for church use. This is yet again a lie. A long-range planning committee has spent the last year working out future needs assessments that were built around the assumption that we would continue to operate a Preschool.  This information sends us back to the drawing board just as we were preparing to present findings to the church.

Jesus tells us that “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).  The opposite is also true - lies will enslave you. DUMC is a great supporter of children and families, and we would never knowingly do anything to put a child at risk.  This is why we are in this situation - not because we do not love these children, but because we do. The direction we are charting is based on integrity and honesty with every decision we make.

Anytime an emotional decision occurs, there is a great deal of grief and hurt.  Please pray for these children, for their families, and for these teachers. Comfort them when you see them, and express your own personal love and concern for the difficult situation they find themselves in.  The church as a whole will be informed as future developments arise.

 

Blessings,

Steve Autrey

Senior Pastor