The Times West Virginian

January 17, 2008

Friendly to families

WVU aggressively working to establish child-care center

By Katie Wilson

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University is one step closer to achieving its newest endeavor: a child-care center.

The new center is projected to be open in summer 2009.

On Wednesday, the 17-member initiation committee, co-chaired by first lady Heather Garrison, announced plans are moving forward.

“We are seeking a third-party provider and looking for a potential site” for the center, Garrison said.

She said the committee has created a a request for proposal, or RFP, which will be used to identify a state-of-the-art provider to operate WVU’s new center.

Joe Fisher, co-chair of the committee and WVU associate vice president for facilities, said the university will build and maintain the building to house the center, and a private company will be brought in to run the facility.

Garrison noted the committee was split into three parts: one for facilities, one for policy and one to create the RFP. The team spent quite a bit of time traveling to different institutions to check out their child-care centers, including the University of Kentucky, Penn State, Ruby Memorial Hospital and the FBI center in Clarksburg. She said the traveling gave the committee lots of ideas.

“It was an educational experience,” Garrison said. “We learned a lot about what we didn’t want.”

One of the results of the research was the committee decided it would be in the university’s best interests to bring in an outside contractor to run the center. Garrison said there are a number of challenges associated with creating a child-care center from the ground up.

“We’ve never done this before, and we wanted someone with experience,” she said. “We wanted the experts to put together the best facility and care possible.”

The committee was announced Oct. 3 and met for the first time Nov. 9.

“The committee put together a very aggressive plan,” Fisher said.

Rossi Wiles, member of the committee and WVU associate director for contracting services, said the next steps in the process will be just as fast.

Prospective child-care providers will participate in an on-site interview/question-and-answer session will be held the end of this month at WVU. Proposals are due by the end of February, Rossi said.

Among the criteria listed in the RFP, the provider must have a proven track record of quality care, an understanding of child care in a university setting, excellent programs and services, affordable tuition costs and a plan for establishing a parent advisory council.

Plans call for securing an architect soon, and WVU expects to break ground this summer.

During public forums last summer held by then President-elect Mike Garrison, a number of people noted the lack of child-care facilities on campus. A number of attendees noted the university should be more friendly to families.

In October, Garrison and his family announced an initiative to create a child-care center in the quickest time frame possible. At the time, Garrison displayed a stack of reports and studies – some yellowing with age — and told a crowd of children and adults: “It’s time to act.”

The 17-member initiation committee is made up faculty, staff, students and administrators. It is charged with reviewing past studies of child care and developing a plan to implement in the new facility as quickly as possible.

Toni Morris, instructor in the Department of Community Medicine and chair of WVU’s Council for Women’s Concerns, also praised the Garrison administration for its commitment to family issues.

The council — made up of faculty, staff and students — was created in 1977 to discuss the changing needs of women on college campuses, she said.

“Dr. Elaine Ginsberg was the first chair of the council, and she said, ‘Our real goal on the council is to work ourselves out of business. If the University can become so responsive to women’s needs over the next few years, we’ll no longer be needed.’ Well, that didn’t happen, but finally after 30 years, the child-care issue will be addressed,” Morris said.

E-mail Katie Wilson at kwilson@timeswv.com.