New child development center may be in place by next fall

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Staff Writer

On Friday, Sept. 21, at the first Academic Senate meeting of the year, April Lidinsky, head of the Women and Gender Studies program at IU South Bend, shared a report on the progress that was being made in re-establishing a child development center on campus. A task force had been requested by former Chancellor Terry Allison to study the possibility of incorporating various academic programs into the operation of the facility to justify the allocation of university funds toward supporting such a venture.

Susan Cress, associate professor of Early Childhood Education, has been heading up the task force with Lidinsky and states that the goal is, “To provide a campus-based quality child development center for families with children from 6-weeks to 5-years old.”

There had been a fully functioning Child Development Center (CDC) on campus since 1969. It began “as a parent-initiated babysitting cooperative with 15 children,” said Cress.

When it closed in 2017, it had served over 70 children each semester, according to Cress.

Much of the primary funding for the center had come from the Student Government Association’s budget, using Student Activity Fees, to subsidize the facility for many years. That funding was pulled several years ago and the center was taken over by a private company. The university subsidized the space temporarily by charging little to no rent while the operators tried to secure outside funding, but when the university determined that it could no longer be afforded, the facility was shut down because the facility could not afford the rent needed to secure the space.

Not long after the close of the CDC, an ad-hoc committee was formed among faculty and staff members to explore ways to bring it back. This led to the development of the recent task force. One of the major accomplishments of the task force thus far has been the implementation of a survey to gauge the support of having such a facility on campus. There were 887 respondents, made up of 67% students, 18% faculty and 15% staff. The results of the survey showed that, “95% of survey respondents answered ‘yes,’ that university-supported childcare should be available to students, staff and faculty; 93% of respondents affirmed that campus-supported childcare was ‘very important’ or ‘moderately important’ to student success.”

In spring of 2018, the Faculty Senate, Student Government Association, Biweekly Staff Council and the Professional Staff Council affirmed that campus-supported childcare is “of great importance to the university community and that an affordable, high quality childcare facility should be available to students, staff and faculty,” according to Cress.

“Interim Chancellor Jann Joseph supports the effort and is waiting for the recommendation. The administration is providing information that the task force asks for. Once the academic/business model for the child development center is finalized and presented to the chancellor’s office budget discussions can take place,” said Ken Baierl, chief of staff for the Office of the Chancellor, of the administration’s support.

The task force, “comprised of faculty, staff and most recently a student, met throughout the summer of 2018,” according to Cress.

Two potential additional partners, Ivy Tech of South Bend and the Michiana YMCA, are emerging as part of a collaborative model

Space on the IU South Bend campus is of paramount importance to the success of the collaboration.”

The committee expects “a visit from the IU Bloomington architects who will be looking for possible space on campus as part of their visit to campus this fall,” according to Cress.

The current timeline includes finalizing and proposing a budget by December, designing and planning during the spring, and implementing and opening the new facility by next fall. Much of the progress is dependent on the ability to identify a usable space on campus.

In looking at how academic programs could be incorporated into the functioning of the new facility, Cress stated that, “There is potential for students in Education, the Health Sciences, and Psychology, to name a few academic areas, to do practicum experiences or offer services to the proposed child development center.” Cress noted, however, that many valuable services on campus do without requiring an academic program incorporated into their model.

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