UGA President Michael F. Adams was joined by some of the youngest members of the university community when he snipped away at a ceremonial ribbon Jan. 25.
“They told me I have to use safety scissors,” he quipped as he and nine 2- to 4-year-olds lined up with their teachers in front of the new University Childcare Center on the UGA Health Sciences Campus. They were joined by Krista Coleman-Silvers, the University Architects project manager who designed the renovated facility; Danny Sniff, associate vice president for facilities planning; and Kathy Pharr, assistant vice president and director of health sciences campus administration.
After choruses of “Wait, wait, wait. Don’t cut yet” and “We’re going to cut on three. Ready?” from the teachers and cries of “Daddy!” and “Mommy!” from the students, tiny hands carefully guided scissors through their sections of the ribbon.
With that, it was back to playtime for the children and onto snack time—also known as refreshments—for the grownups.
The 12,000-square-foot University Childcare Center officially welcomed its first 50 children Jan. 3. At capacity, the center can serve 146 children ages 6 weeks through 4 years. It is open on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and is under the direction of Prodigies Child Care Management LLC, which is owned by UGA alumnus Wes Zwirn. Childcare professional Nadia Perez has been hired as the center’s director.
“We are, I think, pretty good at educating 18- to 25-year-olds, where most of our student body comes from,” Adams said. “We decided early on that it made sense to hire the early childhood experts.”
In 2008, UGA was searching for a location to fill a request made by many UGA faculty, staff and students—more childcare.
“Then the economy tanked,” Adams said. When the Navy School campus became available, “it was a no-brainer.”
The facility, which previously served as the Navy School exchange, is located on Bowstrom Drive off Prince Avenue and also is open to children from the Athens community. Part-time slots are available; and up to 20 percent of the children may qualify for a discounted rate based on family income.
“It’s a beautiful, well-run facility, something we can really be proud of,” said Pharr. “It’s just the first sign of what will soon become a thriving campus community.”
The center is licensed by the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning and meets the National Association for the Education of Young Children standards in the areas of curriculum and staffing including teacher-to-student ratios, group size and continuing education for staff. Teacher-to-child ratios are one to four for infants, crawlers and 1-year-olds; one to six for 2-year-olds and one to seven for 3- and 4-year-olds.
“I’ve seen a lot of childcare operations in my life, both when I had children and now with grandchildren, and this is one of the very best ones—one of the best designed ones, one of the best laid out ones, one of the best equipped ones,” Adams said. “We designed this to where we exceed, significantly, state standards in every way—space, square footage, outdoor play area and number of children to staff.”
It also exceeds in fun for Kaitlin Nunn, who turns 3 this month. With mom Cassie translating, she said her favorite part of the University Childcare Center is “playing ball outside.”
“All we have to sell is quality,” Adams said, “and that’s top to bottom from birth to the time you complete your education, and we think this is one more great addition to the campus.”
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