Coming this fall: More infant care, child-friendly library space

Two projects that will provide more support for Iowa State students and employees with children -- an expansion of infant care capacity at University Community Childcare (UCC) and a new study room at Parks Library designed for parents with kids in tow -- are set to open this fall.

While incremental, the projects are important improvements that will make campus more welcoming for parents of young children, said Cris Broshar, WorkLife and family services coordinator.

"I think these are steps in the right direction that hopefully provide a foundation for even more to come," she said.

Infant care growing

Adding eight new spots at UCC for infant child care comes from converting space that formerly housed the Comfort Zone, a program that provided care for mildly ill children. A child care task force report released last fall recommended closing the little-used Comfort Zone and repurposing the room for additional infant care, which is in high demand in the Ames area. The task force's report noted that at the time, 350 infants were on the waitlist at campus child care centers, which had 58 infant slots.  

Searching for care?

Employees who will need child care by late summer should start their search now. UHR's child care and family services webpage shares resources that could help. To discuss options or concerns, email the WorkLife team. 

Iowa Child Care Resource and Referral provides free customized referrals to local child care providers. Call (855) 244-5301 to speak to a referral specialist or conduct a search via an online portal 24-7. See the agency's guide to choosing quality child care for more information.  

Remodeling work inside the new infant care space should finish by the end of next week, Broshar said. Half walls that segmented the space to isolate ill children were removed, giving staff better visibility, she said. The renovation also involved new flooring, including a softer surface for the play area. Work on the classroom's outdoor space is scheduled for June, including new sod and a sidewalk loop in a fenced-in area of about 1,800 square feet. UCC hopes to open the new room by Aug. 1.

The overall project budget is about $150,000, nearly 30% of it covered by two state grants obtained by UHR staff: $35,500 for equipment and furnishings from the state Department of Human Services' Investing in Iowa Child Care funding program and a matching grant of $6,250 from Iowa Workforce Development's Child Care Challenge Fund.

UCC staff will use the center's waiting list to fill the eight slots for children 12 months old or younger, Broshar said. The center will regain another four spots this fall when it restores the usual 12-child capacity for its other infant room, as expected, she said. Due to COVID-19, that space has been limited to 8 children. Parents interested in enrolling at UCC should contact center staff by email or phone, 294-9838.

Taking kids to Parks Library

In a survey of student parents in February 2020, two-third of respondents said they would appreciate more child-friendly areas on campus -- making it easier to bring their kids to campus with them, Broshar said. A review of other institutions suggested a dedicated room in the library would be a helpful solution, she said.   

"A study space made the most sense," she said.

Funded in partnership with the University Library, the Graduate and Professional Student Senate and Student Government, the parent space will be safe for all ages but designed to host children ages 3-12. The room is in the media center in the library's lower level and will be stocked with toys, materials and a computer learning station for kids and two work stations with docks and an in-room printer for parents.

An online reservation will be required to use the room, so parents won't come to campus with children only to find the space occupied. The goal is to open the room this fall, Broshar said.