University plans new child care center

Facility would almost double number of spaces available for infants and toddlers

Princeton University plans to build a new child care facility that would almost double the number of spaces available for infants and toddlers, where need is the greatest.

The facility, which would have the capacity for approximately 80 infants and toddlers and 80 preschool children, would be located across from two existing University-affiliated child care programs housed in a University-owned building at 171 Broadmead. An architect for the project has been named, and construction could begin as early as spring 2010. The center, for which an operator also has been selected, is scheduled to open in fall 2011.

"This is an enormous commitment on the part of the University and an important facet of our efforts to create a more family-friendly environment for our faculty, staff and students," said Joan Girgus, professor of psychology and special assistant to the dean of the faculty for matters relating to gender equity, who chaired the University's Child Care Working Group from 2005 to 2007.

The group was charged by President Shirley M. Tilghman in 2005 to plan for a significant expansion and improvement of child care at the University.

"The University has commissioned a number of studies in recent years to help determine levels of need, and this center is designed to meet the need for child care on campus that we have identified," Girgus said.

Centerbrook Architects and Planners of Centerbrook, Conn., will design the facility. The firm's clients have included colleges and universities, arts and other nonprofit entities, schools, municipalities, corporations and private individuals. Its experience includes a well-received child care center at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island. Centerbrook has received the national AIA Firm Award, the highest honor that the American Institute of Architects confers on a firm. It also is known for its innovations in sustainable design and its ability to respond to the context of surrounding neighborhoods.

While the University's recent comprehensive campus planning process indicated that the center might be located at the southeast corner of Western Way and Broadmead, the proposed location is farther south of that site, more directly across from 171 Broadmead. The location recognizes that parents may have children in both the new center and one of the existing centers. Also, by being near campus, the location serves the needs of parents, especially those with infants they may need to visit during the day.  

The center will seek accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children and, based on accreditation standards, is expected to be about 23,000 square feet in size.

The University has selected Hildebrandt Learning Centers LLC, a Pennsylvania-based company that manages 37 employer-sponsored child care centers, to operate the new facility. The company was selected because of its proven track record in providing quality child care and its positive partnerships with employers, according to Alison Nelson, director of benefits in the Office of Human Resources and current chair of the Child Care Working Group, who has led planning efforts for the center. Hildebrandt also will provide consulting in support of the design process for the building.

The new center will be open to children from 3 months through pre-kindergarten of faculty, staff and students. If space is available, slots may be offered to members of the wider Princeton community.

The two existing University-affiliated child care programs are: U-Now, a full-day program that enrolls 80 children from 3 months through pre-kindergarten; and U-League, a morning cooperative nursery school enrolling 112 children ages 2-1/2 through 4 that also offers other programs through early evening for 28 children ages 3 and 4. Currently, 44 of the children enrolled in the two existing centers are infants and toddlers.

The new center will be in addition to several other family-friendly initiatives Princeton has announced in recent years. Programs available to faculty, staff and graduate students include: a heavily subsidized backup care program when regular caregiving arrangements -- for children and adults -- are disrupted; need-based grants for child care; and help in managing work, personal or family life issues through Carebridge Corp. at no cost to the user.