The UCAR childcare center
For HR’s Kristen Alipit, the timing could hardly be better. She’s expecting her first child in May—just a few months before the opening of the new UCAR childcare center.
“I am very excited about the center,” says Kristen, who may place her child there. “It would be extremely convenient for me, working just a couple of blocks away.”
The center will be located at 3050 34th Street, just north of Valmont Road. The UCAR Board of Trustees approved the purchase of the property in February. Over the next few months, UCAR will renovate the building (which formerly housed a childcare center and most recently was the site of the Sojourner School) and contract with a provider to run the center. If all goes as planned, the first children will be playing there by the end of the summer.
Katy Schmoll, vice president for finance and administration, explains that the new center underscores UCAR’s commitment to a family-friendly workplace. It will help the organization recruit and retain workers.
“It’s a commitment to providing the level of amenities that attract a diverse workforce,” says Katy, who has been a leading advocate for the childcare center. “Daycare is not something that’s easy to come by for parents, and having a center in this location is very attractive.”
Those who work at the Mesa Lab also may be getting a new childcare option. UCAR is exploring whether staffers could get some sort of preferred status at the Commerce Children’s Center, located at the site of the NOAA/NIST labs on Broadway south of Baseline Road. Katy isn’t sure yet what the preferred status would entail, but at times in the past UCAR/NCAR staffers, like members of the public, have faced significant waiting lists to enroll their children in the center.
More than 60 staffers have already expressed interest in finding out more about the new UCAR center and potentially sending their children there. “I think it’s a wonderful thing that UCAR is doing,” says F&A’s Denise Moulton, who is thinking of placing her six-month-old daughter, Skylar, in the center. “It gives parents a comfortable feeling by having their children so close to them.”
The center, with five classrooms, will have a capacity of about 70 children, from infants through preschoolers. Because children of staffers alone are unlikely to fill the center, UCAR is negotiating with other organizations, such as Boulder Community Hospital and the CU Credit Union, to see about bringing on a partner to help fill the slots.
Additional issues are being tackled by a childcare committee. These include soliciting proposals from potential providers, renovating the 34th Street property, and determining how the new center will be governed. (For a list of committee members, see below.)
One of the attractions of the new center, in addition to its location, is that parents will serve on a board that will oversee its operations. UCAR’s goal is to have the center eventually certified by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, which would place it among the finest centers in the area. Tuition will be competitive with other local centers.
UCAR has budgeted $1.1 million to buy and renovate the 34th Street property. The money comes out of the organization’s general fund, which has been used for special projects such as launching SOARS and hiring a class of new scientists. The general fund is not used for salaries, and Katy emphasizes that the center will not compete with other budget priorities.
The purchase caps several years of efforts to provide staffers with a childcare option. In 1999, a review by the American Physical Society recommended that UCAR investigate establishing or buying into a daycare center. Employees expressed interest in a daycare center in an internal survey on work/life balance issues in 2001. Two years later, more than 300 staffers signed a petition asking UCAR to continue to explore the issue.
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