Planning Underway For Child Care Center at CSU Channel Islands

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A new child care center at CSU Channel Islands could help bridge a gap in child care in Ventura County, provide educational opportunity and help support students’ family care needs.

This is according to a needs assessment done in March by the university with contributions from Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks; the Ventura County Community Foundation; and berry company Reiter Affiliated Companies. The report was released in November.

The project also has letters of support from other county organizations and public agencies. In a statement, Irwin said the Early Childhood Center project would rely on collaborative efforts from members of the community moving forward.

“I look forward to continued involvement in my capacity as a state assemblymember so that our region can fully support the early education of our most vulnerable children,” she said.

Why build a child care center?

The creation of the Early Childhood Center falls in line with the CSU Channel Islands Graduation Initiative 2025. Established in 2015, the initiative focuses on increasing graduation rates and eliminating the achievement gap.

Attention to child care accessibility is essential to achieving these goals, the report says.

The center would also be a resource for farmworkers with young children.

“CSUCI is located in the heart of the agricultural landscape within the region, making (the center) accessible for both populations,” the report states.

A 2018-2019 report done by Reiter summarized that despite bringing in around $2 billion in revenue to the local agriculture industry, farmworkers “do not have the same access to educational advantages available” when their children are compared to other low-income children in Ventura County.

There are several factors at play here including cost, lack of weekend care, fluctuating work schedules, language barriers and just a lack of spaces to take children.

Taking this into consideration, planners are looking into alternative payment programs.

As for the course of study, CSU Channel Islands is the only university in the county to offer a bachelor’s degree in early childhood studies, which adds to the pool of early childhood educators locally.

The center would provide a place for students to complete student teaching.

Needs assessment survey

The university conducted a survey among students and employees to ascertain their child care needs in March. About 26% of students and 41% of all employees, including faculty and administrators, responded.

About 26% of respondents have children.

“Whether or not respondents have children at home or if they anticipate needing childcare in the future varies significantly by university affiliation, age, gender, income and race,” survey results state.

About 41% of a total 2,155 respondents said not having on-campus child care had a negative impact on their education or work experience. Nearly 44% of respondents said they had “great difficulty” in finding care for a child.

“It’s very difficult to take evening classes when your child’s daycare closes at 6 p.m.,” one respondent in support of the center said. “That is the reason that, in my case, I have not been able to take the classes I need.”

That concern of juggling classes and attending to their children’s needs was echoed in many respondents’ comments.

Cost to build

The initial estimated cost to build the center comes out to about $25 million. Irwin secured $5 million in seed money through funds set aside for early childhood education in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s 2019-20 budget.

However, a note about the seed money in the report states: “Funds are subject to review and may see a potential reduction of up to $3.7 million.”

There is enough funding for the project site development and infrastructure costs, said Tom Hunt, CSUCI interim assistant vice president for facilities services.

The university still needs to secure funding for the “full build-out,” he added.

Based on projections, the first year of operations will cost “just over $1.7 million.” This includes costs associated with employees, the program and other expenses.

Parent fees are projected to cover only 52% of the total cost, the report states. To make up the shortfall, the university is looking at sources like state and federal funding, campus fees and community donors.

The “initial phase” for the center will involve 100 children and their families.

“Approximately one-third of the center’s enrollment capacity would be reserved for children of farmworkers,” the report states.

Next steps

“We are in the planning phase for an Early Childhood Education (ECE) Center,” said Tom Hunt, the university’s interim assistant vice president for facilities services.

In July, the university put out a request for qualifications for firms that could design the center. Subsequently, Hunt said they have a short list of the most qualified firms.

Once funding is secured, they will put out a request for proposals to the firms on the list for design services.

This article was originally published by Ventura County Star.

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