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Proposed daycare facility on UI campus generates mixed opinions

BY STACEY MURRAY | SEPTEMBER 10, 2012 6:30 AM

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A new childcare center may soon be built on the University of Iowa Hawkeye Campus, but at least one local day care is concerned that a new facility could put existing childcare centers out of business.

The state Board of Regents will hear a request for proposal from a third-party childcare vendor on the UI Hawkeye Campus — an area along Hawkeye Park Road adjacent to the Hawkeye Commuter parking lot — on Wednesday in Ames.

“This does seem to me to be blazing new trails,” Regent Robert Downer said. “I do want to hear more about it. I’m not sure what directions this will take us in. I — and hopefully others ­­— will pose questions at the meeting.”

The third-party vendor would build and operate a new facility at one of two locations. One of the options sits north of the future UI Hospitals and Clinics Family Medicine Clinic, while the other is the spot south of the commuter parking lot, according to the regent’s meeting agenda.

These potential new sites would allow families using the daycare to use university parking and the Cambus route.

The UI leases buildings to 14 area childcare agencies all within 1.5 miles of campus. Thirteen of them serve the surrounding area as well as the UI. The yearly leases allow the UI to use the buildings and agencies as needed.

Janet Coapstick, an employee at Melrose Day Care, believes the proposal could eventually close all the UI-affiliated daycares on Melrose Avenue.  The nonprofit organizations do not have the money to build facilities of their own and therefore would simply close, she says.

“I think it’s going to close our daycare,” Coapstick said. “It would be hard for college work-study kids because the students have easy access to work, which is good, but now they’ll have to take a Cambus.”

She noted that Melrose Day Care, 701 Melrose Ave., employs five students under work-study programs.

“[UI officials] could say ‘OK, we’re going, done now, we’re going to use it for something else,’ ” Coapstick said when referring to the UI’s ability to change the leases. “They’ve always told us they didn’t think they would do that.  It’s too much maintenance.”

However, Cindy Seyfer, the associate director of the UI’s Office of Financial Aid, said there isn’t reason for the present daycare centers or work-study students to worry, because students will continue to be offered jobs at childcare centers near campus.

“I don’t see it as an issue,” Seyfer said.  ”As long as it was a nonprofit organization on or near campus, we would continue to work with the organization.”


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