College Park, UM may birth new day care program -- Gazette.Net







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Last year, the College Park City-University Partnership launched a new public charter school focused on rigorous college preparation. Now, it may take on dirty diapers.

The nonprofit organization is considering creating a subsidized day care program for infants and toddlers, available to both the College Park community and the university.

For 18 years, the partnership has spurred collaboration between the city of College Park and the University of Maryland, College Park. Frank Brewer, executive director of the partnership, said the group has informally discussed a day care for several years, but only recently began researching and tentatively outlining the project.

“What we would love to do is create options within College Park that parents would have, from infants all the way through high school,” Brewer said.

The University of Maryland, College Park, currently has one day care option: the Center for Young Children, a program for 3- to 5-year-olds run through the College of Education. The program is open to university and community members, Brewer said, but the approximately 120 slots for children fill quickly and there usually is a long waiting list.

“We believe there are not enough day-care options for residents of the community and staff of the university,” he said.

At the Center for Young Children, he said, “it’s first come, first served, and the priority is to serve city university faculty and staff. It hasn’t been a good source for residents.”

The potential new program ideally would focus on infant and toddler care, but also may include older children, Brewer said.

Carlo Colella, the university’s vice president for administration and finance, said other institutions of the university’s size typically offer more child care options.

“[Having just one option] is out of sync with many of our peers,” he said.

Colella said the university has established a working group to research the issue and the proposed day care likely would be on university property, with a capacity of up to 120 children.

Prince George’s County Councilman Eric Olson (D-Dist. 3) of College Park said he enrolled his children in the Center for Young Children and witnessed the high demand of the program.

“[Child care] is definitely a need in the community,” he said. “... I think [another program] would be fantastic.”

Colella said the university is researching day care programs at institutions such as the National Archives and the “supply side” of the research is nearly complete. The next step will be to research the demand side of the issue by surveying College Park residents, he said.

Brewer said a collaborative child care program would be one more way for the city and the university to strengthen their relationship.

“Residents of the city have the same needs as the faculty and the staff [of the university],” Brewer said. “I am personally enthusiastic about child care being something that can bring the city and this university together as a shared need.”