Ohio Northern University’s Child Development Center will be expanding in physical space and enrollment to provide enhanced services to the campus community and the public.
Construction on a 4,000-square-foot facility is expected to begin this fall directly across from the existing 1,600-square-foot center at 209 Union St. A fall semester 2022 opening is tentatively planned.
The new facility will incorporate more space for learning, play and conferencing, and accommodate more families. Architectural renderings have not yet been created, but administrators are planning to build a one-story brick building with basic design elements that will blend with the rest of campus.
The Child Development Center serves 20 children from ages 3-5. It has operated at its current location since 1987; the childcare program itself launched in 1975. The new center will be licensed to serve as many as 62 children. According to center Director June Zimmerman, staff hope to care for infant, toddler, preschool and possibly school-age children in the new center. Employees are planning to begin working in the new building with the same number and age group of children they teach at the current center, and then gradually increase the number and age groups of students as they adjust to the new setting and increase staff.
The new center will better accommodate activities such as fine motor skills learning and outdoor play. New features, such as an observation room for ONU education students and a private location for nursing parents will be incorporated.
The center intends to maintain its five-star Step Up to Quality rating issued by the Ohio Department of Education and Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. The five-star rating, a rigorous evaluation, is an important recognition that illustrates the center’s commitment to meeting quality programming standards and exceeding licensing health and safety regulations.
Regional childcare demand and structural considerations served as primary drivers for this building project. According to Jason Broge, vice president for financial affairs, the “right synergy” was in place this year for Board of Trustees approval. Income from ONU-owned properties that were sold in recent years will be funding the project, which has a budget of just under $1 million.
Broge has experience with higher education-supported childcare infrastructure, having successfully managed a similar building project in Michigan prior to being hired at Ohio Northern.
“This will be a quality building” that will benefit the University and community, Broge says.
Project design and construction will go out for bid. “Hopefully we’ll be able to find locally oriented vendors” interested in meeting this multi-faceted need, he said.
“This has been a long time coming,” said Zimmerman of the project. She had been lobbying for additional space since she began working at the center, tucked away on the northeast side of campus, a decade ago. The program had long since outgrown its space in the former residential structure. Also, additional academic education concentrations at ONU now mean more college students are interesting in working there with children; the Education Program offers early and middle childhood teaching degrees, and requires students to undertake high-impact learning experiences. Its students have a 100% placement rate in full-time teaching positions within six months of graduation.
Over the years, the childcare center has also hosted student workers whose study concentrations have ranged from education to psychology to law, Zimmerman says.
“We have a well-rounded operation,” Zimmerman says. Learning and working at the center is a way to further educational goals and develop character. “We hope to continue offering these opportunities by serving additional age groups at the new facility,” she says.