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Trustees jog plans for PHCC day care

The college needs to find funding, a site and a provider, but it hopes to offer student parents a place to drop off their kids as early as fall 2002.

By RYAN DAVIS

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 20, 2001


NEW PORT RICHEY -- The future of day care at Pasco-Hernando Community College began to take shape Saturday during a board of trustees workshop.

It will likely first be tried at PHCC's west campus in New Port Richey.

It probably will include drop-in service, allowing students to drop off their children before class and pick them up after class.

It could start as soon as fall semester 2002.

Now, the college needs to find a day care provider, the money to run a center and a site to build a new building or plant portable classrooms.

"It's not as simple as people think to set up a day care center," consultant Mary Poole told the board of trustees.

During a three-hour workshop Saturday, board members met with Poole, whom they recently hired to help establish a center. Poole, who is working with PHCC as an independent consultant, also works for University of South Florida and played a key role there in establishing a day care center 31/2 years ago, she said. PHCC will pay her $90 an hour.

Board members couldn't take votes or make official decisions Saturday, but they started asking questions.

"As much as we all want this in a day or a month, we have to be realistic and practical and give it some time," trustee Rao Musunuru said.

At its next meeting, Sept. 18, PHCC president Robert Judson will present to the board its budget options. The school could possibly get day care money from the state government, a fundraising campaign or trimming its budget elsewhere, Judson said.

At that meeting the board will also begin deciding what care it wants to provide. Will it provide care for infants? Will itseek a national certification that requires more space and employees per student?

Judson suggested the school first implement day care on the New Port Richey campus, where about half of its students take classes, in order to have the best chance of succeeding.

Poole said it might be possible to start the center by next fall semester if the school uses portable classrooms. It will likely take a year and a half to two years if the school decides to build a center.

Most board members said they would only support using portables if they were significantly cheaper than constructing a building.

In a survey last year, about one in four students said they would use day care if it was available on their campus.

Board members said a day care center should help recruit students, both allowing current students to take more classes and making it possible for other parents to return to school.

"I don't like losing students to Hillsborough Community College or St. Petersburg College," board chairperson Jeanne Gavish said. "I want to do anything we can to keep students from here coming here."

About half of the state's community colleges have day care, college officials said. The schools' missions to serve non-traditional students often makes the service popular. PHCC students have an average age of about 26.5 and about two-thirds are women.

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