By: LESLIE LESTINSKY
If you walk past the IU South Bend Child Development Center, you will most likely see through the same old windows, new owner Jennifer Long buzzing around to ensure that all is well within the center. Long carries with her, 20 years of experience and a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Ball State University. In addition to her extensive childcare background, Long has a history with the center, once serving as director of the IU South Bend CDC from 2004-2006. When she heard the center was facing complete shutdown, she became involved in efforts to keep the center operating on campus. She owns two other local pre-schools including Discoveries InfantToddler Center and Imaginations Child Care and Preschool, both in South Bend.
Long explains that the main contributing factor as to why the center shifted out of the university’s hands and into the private sector boils down to cost. IU South Bend did not want to continue to take on the financial burden of operating the center. Long works closely with the school and has invited university administration to serve on her advisory council. While working independently from the university, Long is interested in partnering with the school to do what is best for students and their families.
The most prevalent transformations at the center come in the form of painting, cleaning and organizing for a fresh, new look. There has also been a restructuring of the classrooms to offer an infant/toddler room, introduction to pre-school room (two-and-a-half to-three-year-olds), a pre-school room (three tofive-year-olds) and large motor skills room similar to that of an indoor gym. The large motor skills room is a significant change that can be seen within the walls of the center. This room will allow for indoor playtime during inclement weather as well as provide a space for anxious children to release some energy in order to come back and fully engage in and focus on learning activities.
What remains the same is currently-enrolled families will still receive priority when registering, then admission will be open to siblings within those families, students, faculty/staff and then the general public. Registration continues to operate semester to semester.
The main objective still remains -the center exists to operate with the students and their families in mind. Long stated she hopes to “keep it going to where we break even and if we earn a little money, give it back to the students and turn a little bit of a profit.”
Returning parents can look forward to seeing familiar faces such as Mary Wilhelm-Cantway, who continues to serve as director as well as six other staff members. Long purposefully retained every staff member who expressed interest in staying at the center.
The price of admission has increased a bit. However, students will still be able to take advantage of a discounted rate and the center will still be accepting state vouchers. Long is also working on building a scholarship program that will, in time, aid students with the cost of admission. A percentage of the center’s profits will be put into the scholarship fund annually.
Long is excited to be re-opening the center and encourages courious parents to stop by for a tour. The center is located in the Administration Building. Hours of operation are Monday-Friday, 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Optional early drop-off begins at 6:30 a.m. and late pick-up extends until 6:30 p.m. As it stands now, the center is at 60 percent enrollment capacity and spaces are available.
Inquiring parents are encouraged to get in touch with Long via phone: (574) 334-8877 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.