Archive for Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Day care center waiting list could hamper faculty recruitment at KU

Hilltop leaves them hanging

June 14, 2006


Pat Pisani of Kansas University's Hilltop Child Development Center laughs at the thought of advertising.

"That's the last thing we need," Pisani, Hilltop's executive director, said.

Word of mouth is enough for the KU-affiliated program, which caters to KU students and employees. With about 220 children, the center is full and then some.

Despite an expansion in 2000, about 330 youngsters are on the waiting list - a situation that can affect KU's recruitment of new faculty and employees.

"It certainly makes this a more attractive offer and makes KU seem like a much more welcoming place," Senior Vice Provost Kathleen McCluskey-Fawcett said of the center.

But few new faculty and staff are welcomed with a spot at Hilltop. The center gives first priority to KU students.

Though KU reserves five spots for incoming faculty, the university would need about 15 reserved spots to fill the need, McCluskey-Fawcett said.

Malka Hampton, 5, swings on some playground equipment at Kansas University's Hilltop Child Development Center, 1605 Irving Hill Road. Despite an expansion in 2000, the center's waiting list - currently estimated to be about 330 children - continues to grow. A plan to expand the center is expected to go before the Kansas Board of Regents soon.

Malka Hampton, 5, swings on some playground equipment at Kansas University's Hilltop Child Development Center, 1605 Irving Hill Road. Despite an expansion in 2000, the center's waiting list - currently estimated to be about 330 children - continues to grow. A plan to expand the center is expected to go before the Kansas Board of Regents soon.

"I hate to have to say 'no' to people, but at the moment, that's the arrangement that we have," she said.

Plans for a $1 million, six-classroom wing are in the works. The addition, which would add about 100 more children to the center, may go to the Kansas Board of Regents as early as this month, Pisani said.

KU administrators are working on ways to fund the addition. McCluskey-Fawcett said it depends on whether KU can get a bond and spread payments over time.

The addition would be the final growth spurt for the center. Hilltop already is more than two times the ideal size for a child development center, Pisani said.

But Hilltop remains popular for its quality instruction, culturally and ethnically diverse student population, convenient location and flexible programs, Pisani said.

"It's one of the premier centers in the county," said Anna Jenny, executive director of Douglas County Child Development Assn.

Lisa Wolf-Wendel, KU associate professor of teaching and leadership, waited more than a year before her first daughter was initially accepted.

Wolf-Wendel said she likes the diversity of Hilltop's students and the convenience.

"It's just nice to be able to pick up and drop off your kids easily," she said.

About 50 percent of Hilltop's students are children of KU students. The other half are children of faculty and staff. A handful are children whose families aren't affiliated with KU.

The center expanded in 2000 when it moved from the Wesley Building to its current location off Irving Hill Road. At the time of the change, the waiting list had about 200 children on it. That figure has only grown.

Some children are on the list for years. Some never get in.

Demand from KU employees will continue to grow as KU recruits more women and men with young children, McCluskey-Fawcett said.

And there will be more like Lori Reesor, incoming associate vice provost for student success. Reesor, whose children are on the waiting list at Hilltop, discovered finding child care in Lawrence that fit her needs was hard.

After more than a dozen phone calls and visits to half a dozen centers, she found a situation where she'll split up her children among other centers. It's not ideal, but she's happy.

"It was very stressful," said Reesor, currently associate dean of education and assistant professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. "I underestimated how difficult it would be."

Reesor called child care a top priority. Without it, she couldn't work, she said.

If she hadn't been able to find child care in Lawrence, Reesor would have stayed in the Kansas City area and commuted - a situation that could have affected her tenure at KU, she said.

"I really wanted to be a part of the city and the Lawrence community," she said.

Finding the right child care can be tough in Lawrence, Jenny said.

"To find exactly what a parent may be looking for may be a challenge," she said. "I think parents need to look at the full range of options. There's a lot of different options available."


armyguy 10 years ago

What the article fails to mention, is that student fees pay for most of the center. The center should be 100% for students. Let the paid members of the staff find or fund their own center.

armyguy 10 years ago

Buy the way, Hilltop was 100% paid for by students fees

costello 10 years ago

armyguy: Are you saying that parents whose children attend Hilltop don't pay any tuition? It's free? That seems strange to me.

fletch 10 years ago

The building itself was paid for by students, and a large portion of it's operating expenses are paid for by a student fee. The rest is made up of 'tuition' fees paid by faculty and staff members who have children at Hilltop. But students get preferential treatment in the placement of their children at the center.

Hilltop is one of the best things going at KU. I really hope KU can secure funding for an addition, and that the quality of care remains as high as it always has been.

robinrander 10 years ago

Yeah. Kick all the faculty and staff kids out of Hilltop. Because it should only benefit students. And how could attracting good faculty and staff possibly ever benefit students?

breeze 10 years ago

The problem is not limited to Hilltop. Throughout Lawrence, whether you are part of KU or not, there is a shortage of good quality childcare. There exist places which are better than Hilltop but that doesn't mean there is an opening when you need it. Even with planning before the child is born, there are problems finding a good place for her/him. Yes, some will say, "Stay at home with your own child!" but for most families that is unrealistic.

armyguy 10 years ago

costello, fletch said it well. As a former Non-trad student senator, expanding hilltop was looked into. Yes it is a great addition to KU, however with the limited number of students able to use it their was more cost effective things for students.

Once a faculty member is able to enroll their child they never leave the system, unlike a typical student who moves away after grad.

Perhaps, KU should look to thier own departments for help, in that, they could have their teacher or social work programs orgainize a hilltop like system, that students could earn credit for. They could charge tution and fees, and the faculty could get paid to have their kid attend.

fletch 10 years ago

armyguy: ahhh, I was a Jr/Sr CLAS Senator a couple year ago. Nothing like Senate to teach you the joys of University financing.

lma1979 10 years ago

Just FYI -- students DO pay tuition for their children to attend Hilltop. Tuition is determined by each family's income. As a result, faculty and staff will tend to pay more for their children to attend Hilltop than students with children.

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