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UCAR studies daycare options
Can the institution open its own center?

RAP’s Martha Limber is so frustrated over her two young sons getting shuffled from one room to another at their daycare center to fill available spaces that she wants to find another center where she can help set the policy. “I’d like to see an emphasis on moving a child because it’s right for the child, rather than the center wanting to maximize its benefits,” she says.

UCAR is trying to help Martha and other employees with young children by looking into the possibility of opening its own daycare center. Katy Schmoll, vice president for finance and administration, says the plan would be to contract with a private operator to handle the center’s day-to-day operations. Parents who work at UCAR would help set the center’s policies, perhaps by serving on a board of directors or a parents advisory group.

The impetus, in part, comes from a 1999 review by the American Physical Society. It recommended that the institution investigate establishing or buying into a daycare center to assure that each child would have reliable, long-term care. In an internal survey last year on work/life balance issues, employees expressed interest in a daycare center, and Katy has spent the last several months talking with parents and analyzing various options.

“Having a daycare center is a good family-friendly approach, and it really helps in terms of recruiting and retaining employees,” Katy says.

She says that a UCAR/NCAR/UOP center would have to be conveniently located in Boulder (possibly near FL) and cost-competitive with other daycare centers. It would eventually be self-sufficient. Other details remain to be worked out, such as whether to emphasize early childhood or afterschool care, allow parents to drop off their children on an occasional basis, or adopt a particular approach to care (such as that of a Montessori school).

Despite the interest in the center, Katy warns that establishing it may take a number of months or even longer. To begin with, the institution cannot easily establish a center by itself because only about two dozen children of employees would likely be enrolled—not enough to support such an expensive endeavor. So Katy hopes to partner with another institution.

A second major hurdle is finding a site. The options include buying an existing center or converting another type of building into a daycare center. Neither approach would be easy. For example, Katy has looked at a daycare center on 28th Street and Kalmia Avenue that is for sale, but it would need extensive renovations.

“The economics of running a daycare center are pretty rough,” Katy concedes.

Nevertheless, she remains optimistic that the logistical challenges can be overcome. If you’re interested in tracking the institution’s progress or making suggestions about a daycare center, you can sign up for an internal e-mail list at mailman.ucar.edu/ mailman/listinfo/daycare. •David Hosansky


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