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Opponents of Closing Child Development Center at U of M Organize and Petition

February 08, 2018 06:07 PM

Faculty, staff and students at the University of Minnesota are speaking out against the administration's plan to close the university's Child Development Center, which provides day care for nearly 150 children.

Parents learned of the plan to close the center in the summer of 2019 in a letter from school officials last month.

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The move paves the way for an expansion of the Shirley G. Moore Lab School, which a university spokesperson said needed new space.


 


And while the closure is still a year-and-a-half away, an effort to stop it has already been mounted. Nearly 2,800 faculty, graduate students and staff have signed a petition that was handed in Thursday.

RELATED: U of M to Close Faculty, Staff Day Care

Staff member Sara Hurley said 560 faculty members, including associate deans, department chairs and heads, signed the petition. Opponents of the closure note there are already wait lists for early childhood care all over the Twin Cities and closing the center could create a real burden.


Around the region

Here is a look at what a few other schools in the Midwest offer when it comes to  university-managed early childhood education and care.

  • The University of North Dakota in Grand Forks has 103 children enrolled in its University Children's Learning Center.
  • The University of Wisconsin-Madison serves approximately 400 children at thee childcare centers on campus and two centers off campus.
  • The University of Michigan provides early childhood education for approximately 500 infants, toddlers and preschool children at its campus in Ann Arbor.

The center provides a "fee-for-service" childcare and child development programs of university staff, faculty and students, a serves kids aged 3 months to 5.5 years, according to the website.

Minneapolis City Council member Cam Gordon sent his son to the center decades ago.

"After I got over the initial surprise on my own, I got a wave of emails and people who were contacting me wondering what we can do to save it and preserve it," Gordon said.

Gordon signed the petition and has offered to work with the university to keep the center open or find an adequate alternative.

"I actually see having quality childhood care provided at the university as a great model for all of us," Gordon said. "I've often thought that the city should look at what can we do to provide support and maybe a childhood facility downtown for some of the families we have working for us."

Matt Kramer, the vice president of university relations at the school, said it's unclear what the future of daycare will look like on campus. He said a Request For Proposal is in the works and it will include input from faculty and staff.

Kramer suggested there could potentially be interest from national daycare firms or even local nonprofits.

"We want this RFP to reflect that if we're going to do this, we're going to do it right," Kramer said. "We're going to do it in a way that it benefits a significantly, hopefully larger, percentage of our employee population and hopefully, from a prioritization perspective, partner with somebody who this is there business."

Kramer said the decision was made after the State of Minnesota and its taxpayers asked the university to focus on its core mission. The center's cost and the limited access to all University employees went into the decision.

"It's beloved," Kramer said of the center. "Parents had a really good opportunity there, but not all parents did. We have 20,000 employees, and an extraordinarily small subset of them are allowed to benefit from this, at a subsidy, by the way, of the rest of the employees of the University of Minnesota."


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