Daycare at University of Minnesota set to close

A University of Minnesota daycare used by campus faculty and staff is set to close next year as part of an expansion project for a different university program. Now, parents are fighting back.

“It’s on campus and it’s one of the highest quality development centers in the state,” said Associate Professor Colleen Flaherty Manchester.

Manchester currently has two young children in the university’s pre-school and a third child, who graduated from the program at the U of M's Child Development Center (CDC). She loves the convenience, the curriculum and the overall care. As a labor economist focused on female faculty success, she argues a university trying to hire strong working women and academics needs a top-notch daycare.

“A move like this is step in the opposite direction and will undermine our ability to recruit, retain and get future funding for female faculty,” said Manchester.

But administrators insist a full-time, year-round daycare that is used by only a tiny fraction of the university community isn’t a great use of shrinking financial resources.

Instead, the College of Education wants to improve and expand a different early childhood development program with the Institute of Child Development (ICD). The officials are planning to move a lab school within ICD, which focuses specifically on research and training, to the CDC's current location.

“Fundamentally, I don’t think we should be providing daycare. Our function is to do research and educate teachers,” said Jean Quam, U of M education dean. “Why can’t you do both? Simply not enough space."

Daycare families received a letter on Monday, alerting them to the closure. They were given 18 months to transition to a different facility.

While the education dean insists the decision is final, some faculty members aren’t done fighting.

“It’s not just a daycare,” said Tetyana Shippee, a U of M associate professor. “It’s a model for early childhood development which we know is so important.”

The dean behind this decision met with impacted parents on campus Thursday afternoon. Administrators said they would look into whether or not it made economic and logistical sense to bring in an outside, third party provider to operate a daycare program specifically for the university community in the future.