Parents step up to help local daycare hit by serial thefts

Costs are piling up at a local daycare where a string of catalytic converter thefts have occurred.

Kid City Academy co-owners Mitch and Jonella Salyers have paid thousands of dollars and dipped into their own savings to try and protect school buses from catalytic converter thefts. During the past two years, the car part that produces precious metals was stolen from three of their buses. There was another unsuccessful attempt on a fourth bus Nov. 9, Mitch Salyers said.

“You notice immediately when you turn the bus on,” Salyers said.

“It roars and sounds like a dune buggy and you notice the catalytic converter is gone.”

Kid City Academy is a private preschool in Franklin that serves students from six weeks old through kindergarten. It also provides afterschool services to students as old as 13 years old. School buses are a key component of the daycare’s services, as the academy provides transportation to and from Clark-Pleasant and Franklin schools, as well as a summer camp with daily field trips for students who have completed kindergarten, according to the academy’s website.

The Salyers have had to shell out $2,000 for each of the three catalytic converters that were stolen, $3,000 for shields to protect buses from future thefts and about $1,000 for repairs on the catalytic converter that was cut but not fully removed during the recent attempt, Mitch Salyers said.

In addition to the $10,000 in repairs, the couple has spent about $6,000 on security cameras for the parking lot near the buses, though the cameras have been inconsistent in catching the thieves. Salyers hopes by repositioning the cameras, he can get enough detail on any future perpetrators to take to investigators. He also hopes to install parking lot lighting to deter potential thieves, he said.

When the Salyers have to pay for preventative measures and repairs, it takes away from their ability to give their 15 teachers bonuses, Mitch Salyers said.

Parents, however, have stepped up to assist financially, trying to make sure the Salyers are able to recover at least some of the losses they’ve incurred. One of those parents is McKenzie Newby, whose two children attend the academy that serves 170 students. When Jonella Salyers told parents a school bus got vandalized again, Newby got the idea to start a GoFundMe page, an online fundraiser. Since Newby posted it Nov. 10, parents have contributed $1,385, and Newby hopes, eventually, they can get to $30,000.

“The whole goal behind it is to support them as a small business,” Newby said. “Our kids go to Kid City … and they took a financial hit. They help kids around the area. Our daughter does kindergarten with them. The financial hit is never easy on any business, but we hope this brings some light to Kid City.”

Newby’s goal is to have $20,000 go to reimbursing the Salyers for costs related to school bus maintenance, repairs and theft prevention, and another $10,000 can go toward school resources or any other areas the couple sees fit, she said.

The community’s support is heartwarming, Mitch Salyers said.

“It means everything to us,” he said. “We’re here to support them,. They’re here to support us. At Kid City, we’re a family.”