College considers closing Child Care Center

Members of the campus community who depend on the campus Child Care Center during the day may soon have to find a new place to bring their children.

According to Magda Manetas, director of Student Life, the Child Care Center, located in Forcina Hall, is under review after a failed attempt by the College to move the center into a larger facility.

“A property was purchased on Pennington Road that was headed for renovation,” she said. “Bids (for renovation) were sent out twice and both times came in significantly over budget.”

Because of this unforeseen difficulty in fitting the renovation into the budget, Student Life has made the decision to appoint an ad-hoc committee chaired by Manetas and Student Life Vice President Mary-Elaine Perry.

The committee will be comprised of faculty, staff and students and will “re-examine the mission and purpose of the child care center before pursuing the renovation project,” Manetas said.

Manetas said the reason for wanting to move the Center into a larger property is that the current location in room 159 of Forcina Hall is “not optimal.”

According to the director of the center, Connie Danser, the Forcina Hall room is licensed for up to 25 children. Danser says that current enrollment is 15 children, but because the children don’t all come at the same time, there are never more than 14 children at a time. Manetas said that if the center were at maximum enrollment, it would be cramped.

Another reason why Student Life felt a larger site is necessary for the Center is because it is concerned with the Center’s “ability to provide outdoor recreational space,” for the children. According to Manetas, new safety codes that have been put into place call for a certain amount of “fall space” in the playground. For example, if there is not the required amount of clear area around the base of a sliding pond for children to land safely, the slide must be removed, according to Manetas.

In order to comply with these new safety codes, the Center has been forced to remove much of its playground equipment.

Student Life is considering three possible plans of action regarding the Center. One option is to continue working with the construction companies to reach a bid that is low enough to financially enable the Center to move.

Another option under consideration is to keep the Center as it is, if it is determined that the price of renovation will not come down and the Center is proven to adequately fulfill its purpose.

Should the committee determine that moving the Center is not financially viable and the Center is not meeting standards of operation, the final option would be to close the Center down.

Should the committee choose to close the Center, Manetas said Student Life may “work with other local facilities, such as Merrill Lynch,” to set up alternative sites where parents could bring their children.

Danser said she hopes the Center “could continue either in its current form, or some other form.” She said that the Center is “a unique and special place” because the children receive “so much individual attention.”

When she informed parents of the possibility of the Center closing at a recent back-to-school night, Danser said the general feeling of the parents was summed up by one parent who said, “When something is so good, you don’t change it.”

Felicia Jean Steele, assistant professor of English, has a daughter who attends the Center. She said if the Center were to close down, “It would be a great loss to the campus community. (The Center) demonstrates that we really are a community with a common goal – that is to educate our children.”

Manetas said it would be “at least several months” before a decision about the fate of the Center would be made. She said nearly all the members of the committee have been named and that Student Life hopes to choose a date for the committee’s first meeting this week.

Manetas said the decision would take time to make because Student Life “would need to do an adequate study regarding the future of the program.”

She also said she feels the Center provides a “quality program” and the review of it is “in no way a reflection of the caliber of staff (it has) been able to attract.”