Big media’s preoccupation with parental concerns about drug use near Seattle Central’s childcare center playground is a little peculiar if for no other reason than the TV people haven’t once mentioned the school is planning to cut the program and close the center at the end of the quarter. Here’s how school president Dr. Paul Killpatrick put it in his September announcement on the cut:
A decision has been made, in response to an emergency situation to close the campus childcare center at the end of fall quarter. We will institute a pilot project for winter and spring quarter to provide direct financial assistance (vouchers) to augment student’s childcare expenses. Parents have been notified and we are providing support through our Division of Student Life and Engagement.
The center’s childcare facility that currently serves 68 student parents has been reallocated as the college looks to move faculty and staff from its successful International Student program out of SCCC’s South Annex building which was deemed unsafe following an inspection this summer. We’ll have more on the construction underway on the campus and what SCCC is doing about the South Annex later. The bigger concern for SCCC parents is December 15th — the childcare center is currently slated to shut down mid-December with the end of the winter quarter.
For parents in the program, the Occupy Seattle drug issue is an unwanted distraction as they try to sway the school’s administration to maintain the center through the end of the school year. Student parents Joshua Rogers and Stephanie Safholm represent a group pushing for a better solution for SCCC parents. Here’s what they told CHS about the situation:
The program has operated for over 30 years, and like its North & South Seattle Community College counterparts, has sought to support students who are parents. Closing now means talented teachers become unemployed, both hired & volunteer aids will loose out on valuable hands-on work experience, and other students & families like mine will be forced to evaluate if educational goals are even possible anymore. The childcare center meets the mission and values of the college in a way that the program which will be displacing it does not (http://seattlecentral.edu/sccc/mission.php). This short-sighted decision will have a tremendous long-term impact on the Capitol Hill community and deserves a full review of available options.
Parents are asking the administration to delay closing the childcare center at least to the end of the year, and extend the temporary arrangements which were made this fall for the occupants of the south annex, while also allowing for a committee of effected parties to see if there are other possible solutions. It was promised in the Spring of 2011 that the childcare center would be open all year, and we’re just trying to get that promise upheld.
Seattle Central has not yet responded to CHS’s inquiries about the decision to cut the center.
Frequent CHS contributor Dotty DeCoster has a unique perspective on the situation. She was there in the center’s early days serving as co-chair of the SCCC Child Care Organizing Committee from 1969 to 1971.
For those of you who may be confused, this is not the cooperative preschool program at SCCC, which did remain, at least in part, in the budget for this year at SCCC despite efforts to cut it altogether. This is the student child care center, which opened in the late 1960s or early 1970s in the church across the street from the college in response to pressure by the SCCC Student Child Care Organizing Committee. It is specifically designed to provide child care services to the children of students attending the college, and is not an academic program as the cooperative preschool program has been since before the community colleges existed.
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, SCCC had a large population of students who were supported either by federal assistance through the G.I. Bill or through the W.I.N. program – an astonishing number of us were either recent vets or welfare mothers. The average age of the student body was something like 27. It was a time when federal and state policy encouraged people to find training to enter or re-enter the job market. SCCC was renowned for its technical preparation programs at that time, heir to the Edison Technical School as well as providing college courses. A great many of us found we were in desperate need of child care services in order to go to school. I thought at first this was a women’s issue. This thought lasted about five minutes as I spoke with fellow students, many of whom were recent vets whose wives worked while they went to school and they needed child care to make this work. After much agitation, we obtained the support of then college President Moore and business manager Herb Zimmerman (whose portrait hangs in the Broadway Performance Hall). Enterprising folks from the Early Childhood Program, especially Frances Pringle, and equally enterprising students, worked with the church to find space and put together a remarkable program that was designed specifically to meet student parent needs. This program was only a part of the effort related to early childhood at the college then – it included training for child care teachers, a co-operative preschool hub, a facility for teaching these and the student child care center.
There’s a look at the past. The future of the program? SCCC’s student parents are working on a better plan in a sea of program reductions and budget cuts and with a tribe of Occupy Seattle protesters nearby. Maybe somehow it will all fit together and work out.