The University announced last week that it will partner with YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities to open a new child care facility on East Bank, which is expected to open summer 2021.
The site will be built near Dinkytown on the corner of Fourth Street Southeast and Sixteenth Avenue Southeast and will serve around 150 pre-kindergarten children, including infants. Enrollment priority will be given to faculty, staff and students.
The University also plans to open another child care center on the West Bank and St. Paul campuses.
After seriously considering six other child care providers including New Horizon Academy and the YWCA Minneapolis, the University chose the YMCA in part for its early childhood readiness rating, experience operating child care facilities and commitment to University equity concerns. The YMCA has 30 centers throughout the Twin Cities.
The agreement comes from a larger need for affordable child care close to campus. In 2018 the University announced the closure of the Child Development Center, one of the only University-owned child care centers on campus. University administrators reversed the decision, however, after receiving backlash from parents, faculty members and the broader Twin Cities community.
The CDC is currently operational and is in the process of merging with the Shirley G. Moore Lab School into a single research-based program.
It currently has 140 spots, yet the program’s waitlist exceeds 500 children.
Some have been on the waitlist for years, said Karim Sadak, a member of the Provost’s Child Care Advisory Committee.
“One of the biggest stressors for any student, staff or faculty member with a family is how and where their child can be cared for while they’re in classes or at work,” Sadak said. “When the options are limited … that means things can't happen for families in a timely manner, like having a job or pursuing degrees.”
Ann Bailey, a research associate with the Center for Early Education and Development, said that throughout Minnesota there is a great need for high quality and low cost child care, especially for infants.
“I don't think the University of Minnesota has kept up with need,” she said. “Based on what we know about the University population, we just need more slots here.”
Bailey said building a new child care facility is a step in the right direction and is excited about partnering with the YMCA for this initiative.
The University has a long-standing relationship with the YMCA, and their child care and early education programs are nationally accredited, Sadak said.
Sadak also said the YMCA’s personal pricing plan will make child care more accessible by letting parents pay for care based on their income level.
At the center, students and staff can get hands-on experience working with and learning about child development, said Stephanie Chauss, senior vice president of operations and child care services at YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities.
Chauss said she hopes this partnership will help the YMCA develop new curricula and educate students who are entering the child care field.
“To know that there'll be more availability, and availability through a child care provider that really prioritizes children and a loving and nurturing environment just warms a parent’s heart,” Sadak said. “It gets you excited for future families that will use this [YMCA].”