A shortage of space within the Associated Students Child Development Center is preventing many students and faculty from successfully enrolling their children for daycare.
With only four rooms at its disposal, the center can only hold up to 59 children. As of March 2017 the waitlist for the Child Development Center was 123 children long.
Desiree Calderon-Smith is approaching her tenth year working at the Child Development Center and hopes that one day the center will be able to expand.
“We’re small, and we could be much bigger with our campus resources,” Calderon-Smith said. “Could we service more families? Absolutely, if we could actually have more square-footage.”
Program Manager Keri Krout said the number one difficulty the center deals with is space.
Western’s enrollment statistics showed that 15,332 students were attending as of Fall of 2015, but the center has had the same four rooms available to it since it opened in 1971, when there were under 5,000 students attending.
There are no current plans to expand the center, Mary Moeller, AS vice president for business and operations, said.
“There’s an enormous demand for space on campus,” Moeller said. “Because of the way capital grant funding works at the state level, STEM is being heavily prioritized.”
If the center wanted to expand right now, they would have find a separate location on campus, Moeller said.
Paul Cocke, director of communications and marketing, said he hadn’t heard of any concerns regarding the center, but would look into it.
According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, 4.8 million students are raising dependent children, which amounts to over a quarter of all undergraduates. Around 15 percent of these students attend public four-year colleges. Women make up 71 percent of student-parents.
Junior Alexis Edgar said she has always been extremely career focused. After having her daughter, Edgar decided to take some time off of school to raise her child. After returning, she realized school had become a completely different experience.
“Not only are you worrying about midterms and finals, you’re sitting in class thinking about your kid,” Edgar said. “Are they having a rough day? Are they being well taken-care of?”
After Edgar realized her child was 100th on the waitlist for the Child Development Center, she admitted her child to an off-campus daycare in Winter 2016-17. Unfortunately, she had a terrible experience with her off-campus daycare, so Edgar sought to properly enroll her child in the on-campus center.
After reaching out to the center, Edgar was informed there wasn’t anything the center could do since it was at capacity. She said although the staff were pleasant to speak with, she felt their services fell short since there was nothing they could do.
After constantly voicing her desire to enroll her child in the Child Development Center and her concerns with returning her child to the off-campus daycare, Edgar’s daughter was finally offered a spot in the center for Fall 2017.
However, Edgar is unsure whether or not she would like the center to increase its capacity.
“The student in me says ‘Yes, of course,’ because then I could go to school while my daughter is well taken care of,” Edgar said. “At the same time the mom in me says ‘No, if it gets too big then quality assurance goes to the wayside.’”
Krout said the center’s goal is to socially and emotionally prepare children for future schooling as well as life in the world. The center wants for its children to be able to navigate different social situations while also giving them the courage to ask questions when they need to.
Located on the bottom floors of Fairhaven stacks 11 and 12, it serves children ages 2 to 5 and employs work-study students, as well as early childhood education students from Woodring College of Education. There are currently eight teachers and assistants, as well as 20 student employees.
Krout said the center wants to meet the needs of students and faculty. Both students and faculty prefer having their children close by and on campus, which is why space is the biggest issue.
The center’s data report states up to 40 percent of the available spots are offered to student-parents, while the other 60 percent are given to staff. In the current school year, 35 percent of children in the daycare are from students while the other 65 percent are children of staff.
Krout said faculty are given priority because, from her experience at the Child Development Center, children of faculty members are in more need of constant care. She said student schedules vary from quarter to quarter, whereas faculty members need to rely on the center to provide for their kids throughout the work week.
“It makes perfect sense why they would have more of a priority,” Edgar said. “It’s not very typical, in my experience, that there are students that are parents.”
Of the 123 children on the waitlist, 31 are from students, 84 are from staff and 8 are from alumni.
Senior and student intern Kacey DiJulio has worked in the center since Fall of 2015. She is studying early childhood education at Woodring and says she has loved every moment she’s spent at the center.
“The children here are just as much teachers as anybody who walks through this door,” Dijulio said. “The center just gives so much opportunity to all people.”
Calderon-Smith said that the Child Development Center offers a platform to have your children in a safe and nurturing environment, while also providing a space for future teachers to practice their craft.
If the Childhood Development Center was to expand, Edgar hopes they would consider accepting a wider age range of children.
Many young parents who want to begin their education again do not want to wait until their child is old enough to be enrolled in the center, she said.
Krout and Calderon-Smith agree with the idea of expanding the Child Development Center to include those younger than 2-years-old. They hope one day the center will be able to have an infant room to service more families.
Krout has been working with children and their families for thirty years. Although she is new to Whatcom County and the Child Development Center, she is extremely passionate about the center.
“By far, this is the best center I’ve ever been a part of or even been exposed to,” Krout said. “It’s not just the adult-child ratio, it’s the teachers themselves.”
Thirty-five of Washington’s 75 colleges provide daycare services for their faculty and students. The University of Washington has three on-campus children’s centers with a fourth in construction.
Eastern Washington University’s Children’s Center has a capacity of 194 children, while Central Washington University’s Center can only hold up to 45.
The story will be updated online if information from administration addressing the child care center is received.