Flexible Schedule Pilot Child Care Program to Open at UMass Amherst in January 1999

AMHERST, Mass. - Maryanne Gallagher, director of child care at the University of Massachusetts, has announced that the University will offer a flexible-schedule child care classroom as a pilot program starting at the end of January 1999.

The program will be located on campus in Skinner Hall, Room 4, for the spring 1999 semester, subject to approval by the appropriate licensing agencies. In the fall, the program will be moved to an alternative location and the space in Skinner Hall will be assigned to the School of Education for use by the Early Childhood Laboratory School.

According to Gallagher, student families with part-day child-care needs will have first priority for spaces in the flexible-schedule pilot program. Faculty and staff will be eligible to enroll their children on a space-available basis. Child-care services will be purchased in three- and four-hour units of time for part-day care between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m., with evening hours in the spring of 1999 contingent upon staffing.

The classroom will serve up to 16 preschoolers (children ages 2 years, 9 months through 5 years) at any one time, and up to 40 children in the first semester of operation. Gallagher said a sliding fee scale, based on family size and household income, has been developed to help make the services available to all who need them. It is expected that there will be three tuition rate categories: full cost ($5 per hour), sliding fee ($1-$4 per hour), and full scholarship.

Because tuition fees for this program will be significantly subsidized, Gallagher said, graduate and undergraduate child care vouchers will not be able to be applied to the program. She said the program will accept Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) vouchers and Amherst Community Partnership subsidies. Applications for enrollment, as well as further information about the program, will be available by mid-December, according to Gallagher.

Parents will have to submit applications to identify their spring semester part-day child-care needs before the end of the semester. The program, Gallagher said, will be developed and managed by University Child Care (UCC), to meet Massachusetts Office of Child Care Services licensing criteria and follow accreditation criteria as outlined by the National Academy of Early Childhood Programs. UCC will provide an educational program based on developmentally appropriate practices similar to the other UCC classrooms. more Child-care pilot program

Gallagher said that given the unique nature of a flexible-schedule program and the varied attendance schedules of the children in the program, routines, curriculum, and activities provided for the children will be modified to accommodate their unique schedules.

The program will receive input from an advisory board made up of representatives from GEO, GSS, SGA, the School of Education, and enrolled parents. This group will begin meeting in December as a way to keep these groups updated during the final development phase of the program, Gallagher said.

Gallagher said that offering a pilot program is "a sure-fire way to identify the campus community needs for part-day and evening child-care services." She said the goal is to open the classroom for orientation on Jan. 20, a few days before the start of the semester. She said: "By having an orientation, children and parents will visit the program and we can collect all the forms needed for enrollment prior to the child''s first day of attendance."

She added: "Many details have to be tended to between now and the target opening date. There are teachers to be hired, equipment and materials to be ordered, a brochure and applications packet to be created, and of course, we have to let parents of the campus know about the program. We’ll do our best to get all the pieces in place in time, and I''m sure GEO and GSS will help in getting the word out to student families."