The Children's Center at WPI Set for Summer Opening

Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5616

WORCESTER, Mass. -- An agreement between WPI and the Worcester Jewish Community Center was recently reached-- moving preparations for a nondenominational day care center at the university into the final stages. The Children's Center at WPI, as the facility will be known, will be located at 15/17 Schussler Road, adjacent to the WPI campus. The center is expected to open in late August, shortly before the beginning of the fall term.

In May 1995, the Day Care Center Committee sent Requests for Proposals (RFPs) to approximately 45 prospective day care providers. Proposals were returned in August. Three prospective providers were invited to WPI to make oral presentations to the committee; members then visited two of these sites. The JCC was selected in mid-October, says Mark Richman, associate professor of mechanical engineering, a member of the committee who now chairs the advisory board of The Children's Center at WPI.

"Compared to other providers that we considered, the JCC provides its teachers with higher salaries and more generous benefits which, in turn, attract more highly qualified teachers and result in extremely low teacher-turnover rates," says Richman. "In addition, the JCC operates with more favorable teacher-to-child ratios than the minimum required by the Massachusetts Office for Children, and enhances its program by hiring specialists in music, art and physical education."

JCC Executive Director Myron Flagler and Early Childhood Director Karen Rosen have been meeting with John Miller, WPI's director of physical plant, and with architect Jordan O'Connor of Barre, Mass., to complete final plans for the building. "Last year, the WPI Trustees approved the development of an on-campus day care center," explains Marina Pascucci, assistant professsor of mechanical engineering, who chaired the WPI Day Care Committee and is an active member of the current advisory board who has attended the design meetings. "Plans are to redesign the interior of 15/17 Schussler Road to meet Office for Children guidelines and to provide a home-like environment for the children. The house next door will be demolished to provide parking spaces and additional space for a playground. We plan to seek bids for the work very soon and to begin construction in early March."

The current plan provides space for a total of 45 children in the center: seven infants (2 to 15 months), 18 toddlers (15 months to 3 years) and 20 preschoolers (3- and 4-year-olds). The center will be open year-round from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and will follow the WPI holiday calendar. The facility will be self-supporting. Tuition discounts and first preference in enrollments will be provided to full-time WPI students, faculty and staff; alumni will also receive some enrollment preference. Members of the general community will have the opportunity to apply for any other available slots.

Planning for the center was initiated in 1993 by Assistant Controller Yvonne Harris, who co-chaired the WPI Day Care Committee with Pascucci. Last winter, a survey sent to all WPI employees verified the need for a nearby facility. "Approximately 40 percent of the campus community returned the survey," says Harris. "Fifty children of employees were in paid day care at the time of the survey; parents of 39 of these children said they'd be interested in using our center. What was more remarkable was that 52 of the 57 employees who indicated that they planned to have more children in the next five years said they'd be interested in enrolling them in the WPI center so there is both a current and future need." In January 1995, Harris, Pascucci and Richman presented the views of the day care committee to the President's Cabinet, which approved the establishment of the center. In addition to Harris, Pascucci and Richman, the committee was comprised of Admissions Director Kay Dietrich, Assistant Professor of History Peter Hansen, Administrative Assistant Pauline Lavallee and Instructional Media Center Director Penny Turgeon.

"For the first time, members of the WPI community will have access to day care that is of superb quality and is extremely convenient," says Richman. "Establishing The Children's Center at WPI demonstrates that on the issue of day care, the university is a forward-thinking institution. The center will provide a significant advantage when it comes to recruiting and retaining faculty, staff and nontraditional students. And, of course, it sends a positive signal to all of us at WPI whose morale is very much tied to the welfare of our children."