PRAIRIEVILLE — The Louisiana Department of Education revoked the license of a large day care center in Ascension Parish on Friday after a repeat instance of toddlers escaping the facility's play yard near busy La. 44, state officials said.

The finding doesn't immediately shut the doors of the Color Wheel Learning Center, which has a licensed capacity for 124 children, but means the day care faces that threat long term, the state agency's spokeswoman said.

The license revocation came after an inspection March 22 prompted by a report that four 1-year-olds had found a way out of the play yard three days earlier at the center at 17273 La. 44.

Staff at the day care were unable to explain later how that happened but a passerby spotted the children outside of the fence and returned them to the center, state officials said.

"We are thankful these young children are safe," state Education Superintendent John White said in a statement, "but we cannot ignore the recurring negligence displayed by this center."


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Sydni Dunn, spokeswoman for the Department of Education, said all of the children in the day care are private clients. None are attending Color Wheel with help from the state Child Care Assistance Program, which provides day care funding to low-income families, Dunn said.

A woman answering the door at the day care Friday afternoon declined to comment. The day care is just south of the busy La. 44/La. 42 intersection.

PRAIRIEVILLE — Louisiana education officials revoked the license of an Ascension Parish day care Friday, ending its ability to receive public funding after the center over-medicated an infant, state officials said.

Alphabet Soup Learning Center II, 38375 La. 42, Prairieville, has a history of noncompliance and did not report a child's over-medication, which the state Department of Education deemed a "critical incident," department officials said in a statement.

The toddlers' escape, which the education department division that licenses day care centers deemed a "critical incident," follows a prior instance of a toddler getting out of the same Color Wheel play area five months earlier.

In October 2018, a 1-year-old child opened the gate to the play yard and wandered into the day care's parking lot before being noticed by a staff member, state officials said. The day care reported the incident to the state. The licensing division followed up with an inspection and cited Color Wheel for a lack of supervision, state officials said.

The revocation of Color Wheel's license is at least the third time since January 2017 the Department of Education revoked a state license for a day care in Ascension Parish. The department has also gone after unlicensed day care operations in Ascension.

The department has also revoked licenses for Alphabet Soup Learning Center II formerly on La. 42 and the Adventures in Learning Child Care Center formerly on La. 44. Alphabet Soup appealed its revocation in 2017 but an administrative law judge upheld the revocation and a state district judge in Baton Rouge dismissed a suit over the revocation in December.

Dunn, the education department spokeswoman, said Color Wheel has 15 days to appeal the revocation. The day care can remain open for those 15 days and also during any appeal, unless the department orders otherwise, Dunn added.

If Color Wheel does not appeal or the revocation is upheld on appeal, the operation would be effectively closed.

The Color Wheel day care business — there are also operations on La. 73 and in Baton Rouge — was once held and operated by Jodi Loar, the wife of former Ascension Parish Councilman Chris Loar, and her family.

Chris Loar said Friday they sold the Color Wheel buildings and businesses in late 2017, two years after his unsuccessful run for parish president. Parish land records and a private asset purchase agreement that Loar provided also showed the sales occurred.

Out-of-date state online business records for the old Color Wheel corporations still list Jodi Loar and other partners as the owners, but the land and other sale and business records show it is actually Shulka Learning Academy that holds the businesses and properties, as well as the still active Color Wheel trade names. 

In the statement, the state education department identified the day care as Color Wheel, not Shulka Learning Academy.

Sowji Sriram, the wife of one of Shulka's listed owners who lives in Washington state, also confirmed on Friday the 2017 purchases of the Color Wheel day cares, including the La. 44 location that had its licensed revoked. 

Day cares that have had their licenses revoked are ineligible to apply for a license for two years afterward, the state department says.


Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.