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March 2005

It’s playtime: Parents give high marks to UCAR Child Care Center

Eojin Lee plays with a stuffed bear at the UCAR Child Care Center.

Just a few blocks from the data analysis, computer modeling, and other cutting-edge research in Foothills Lab, a bunch of small children are engaging in some intense projects of their own.

Like cooking muffins, stringing beads, and mixing together as many different colors of paint as they can get their fingers in. Or, in the case of the littlest ones, mastering the simple arts of standing and walking.

“We have fun every single day,” says Mia Strugar-Fritsch, who helps supervise the activities as director of the new UCAR Child Care Center.

Six months after it opened its doors, the new center on 34th Street is winning rave reviews. Parents praised it unanimously in a survey, and a UCAR board that oversees the center gave it a rating of “outstanding” in its first semiannual evaluation—the highest grade possible.

“They’re great with the kids,” says RAL’s Louisa Nance, who enrolled her 7-month-old daughter, Kaylee, in the fall. “We really haven’t had any complaints at all.”

Sophia Ammann pursues the fine arts.

Michele Chiswell, wife of Unidata’s Steve Chiswell and mother of 3-year-old Chase, agrees wholeheartedly. “It’s just wonderful. I like that it’s new and friendly; I like all the equipment and the program; I like that it’s right down the street from Daddy’s office.”

The center now has more than 30 children. That’s a big increase over the 16 it had when it opened on August 30, but still far short of capacity, which is 78. To boost enrollment, it is beginning to accept children from the general public, although the overwhelming majority are still children of UCAR staffers. UCAR parents get a 10% discount and special rates for drop-in care, and they can serve on a parents’ advisory board.

UCAR established the daycare center to help staffers with their childcare needs as well as to make the organization more attractive to perspective employees. The center is overseen by a childcare board that is composed primarily of UCAR staffers, with a representative from the parents’ advisory board. It is operated by a California-based company, with the official name of Childrens’ Creative Learning Centers, that manages 18 centers.

UCAR vice president for finance and administration Katy Schmoll, who chairs the board, visits the center about once a month. “I could not be more pleased with the quality,” she says.

Mia says the center is committed to maintaining high standards, and she hopes it will be certified by the National Association for the Education of Young Children as soon as this fall. Only 10% of childcare centers earn this certification, and they have to meet stringent criteria, including low teacher-child ratios.

In addition to its daily activities, the center throws special events for the children, such as parties for Valentine’s Day and other holidays. It stays open late one Friday a month, enabling parents to drop off their children and have an evening out. Within a few months, the center will begin offering extracurricular activities, which may include classes ranging from Spanish to yoga.

Teacher Rola Awad pulls out pieces for a calendar. With her are (left to right) Matthew Hartnett, Eojin Lee, Nicolas Ammann, and Benjamin Hosansky.

Because the center is close to the FL and CG campuses, parents can take a break during the day to have lunch with their children, and mothers can nurse their infants. “I’ve actually gotten to know other people who work at UCAR who I didn’t know before,” Louisa says. “With the parents going over and visiting during the day, it has a family feel.”

Katy enjoys visiting, too, even though she doesn’t have children at the center. “The kids are so adorable and they are having so much fun there,” she says. “I just want to go play in the yard.”
• David Hosansky

Another weather fanatic

Mia Strugar-Fritsch

It just figures that the UCAR Child Care Center would have a weather enthusiast as its director.

“The Weather Channel’s my favorite channel,” says Mia Strugar-Fritsch, who grew up watching storms in Michigan. “I love weather.” For Christmas this year, Mia got a set of cloud books so she could interpret the sky during backcountry camping trips.

The classrooms in the center are named after weather phenomena, such as Dew Drops and Sunshine. Mia’s office is the Storm Chaser room.

After Mia applied for the job with the Childrens’ Creative Learning Centers, which runs the center, she was delighted to find out the client was UCAR. “I thought it was a good sign,” she recalls.

It’s been useful for her weather insights as well. She can hit up parents, such as COMET’s Doug Wesley, for the latest forecasts.

On the Web

UCAR Child Care Center

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Rotating scientists recall time at NSF

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Greg Holland, MMM’s new director

Python interface to NCL’s graphics library now available

Steve Schneider’s 60th

Delphi Questions

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