Renovating Reed's Future

When asked her opinion on the swift progress that has recently been made on plans to establish a child care center at Reed, Ad Hoc Committee On Child Care at Reed College chair Gail Sherman’s (english, 1981–) first response is pure joy. “Its so exciting!” she says. “It feels great, and it feels like everything really lined up . . . . once the Performing Arts Building was constructed . . . there was an ability to look at the long-term needs of the college.”

This excitement is certainly warranted, given the long road Sherman and the rest of the committee have gone down in order to make the dream of child care on campus a reality. President Colin Diver (president, 2002–12) first assembled the committee of eight faculty and staff members. He charged them to investigate on-campus child care. After conducting a campus-wide survey, looking into the practices of peer institutions, and investigating local child care options, the committee made a recommendation on April 5, 2012 that the College “assess the legal and financial feasibility of campus-based child care, with the goal of an expeditious implementation of such services.” They found child care  imperative since their survey indicated a huge and growing desire for a high quality child care option on campus amongst faculty and staff both with children and without. In June 2013, President John Kroger received their final report, which they had expanded with the help of expert consultant Margaret Browning. Based on a recommendation made by Browning, the committee endorsed the establishment of a 46-child center located in one of the college-owned buildings in the medical complex at 28th and Steele. They believe this model will be financially sustainable, and hugely beneficial to the community.

Most recently, says Sherman, “John Kroger announced . . . that “the college is developing a contract with a provider and continuing to move forward with questions related to zoning . . . and looking at questions of renovation and costs and timing of renovations. So far it still looks good for an opening of child care at Reed in Fall 2015.”  

Committee members say the benefits of the center to the community will be innumerable, and not confined to the obvious. “Its really important to recognize that by having their children in the center, faculty and staff, and maybe students for that matter . . . will have more opportunities for informal interaction, of the kind that I think can only add to the morale of the community,” says Sherman. This communal function is the interaction of many factors. Sherman thinks bringing these factors together will be well worth it for the college. “Putting out there into the world that Reed really cares about education from zero on up and cares about its employees will really pay off,” she said. Corpus is also intrigued by another potential advantage of the center. “As a developmental psychologist, it’s also exciting to envision future learning opportunities the center could offer for students interested in child development or education,” she says.

The issue of child care on campus was first raised in 1997, when, after a group of faculty spoke to then-president Steve Koblik (1992–2001), a committee was appointed to investigate the matter. This success represents the culmination of a long-standing desire. Then, the committee recommended the  Dorothy Johansen House be converted into a child care center. However, following further discussion, a second and final recommendation left the group stymied. Koblick turned the issue over to the Benefits Committee to assess potential costs associated with the project, and it was determined that a center set up in the Dorothy Johansen house would not be able to hold enough capacity to be financially viable, so the debate was put to bed.

That is, until the college participated in the Mellon 23 conference on faculty life issues at Pomona College in Claremont, CA.

A critical factor that will separate the Reed center from other facilities in the area is that Reed’s will be National Association for the Education of Young Children accredited; it will meet national standards of quality in curriculum and care. They “educate[d] [themselves] on what really makes a high quality program, as opposed to something that might look very fancy but not be educationally high quality,” says Sherman. Corpus is pleased with this. “I’ve seen how difficult it is to find quality child care, and how far in advance one needs to act to find a coveted spot, typically, before one even announces a pregnancy. It’s a challenge to navigate parenting and the demands of working at Reed.”  

“I think it’s important for people to know that this has been a long, careful, and thoughtful process.” says Corpus. “We have gathered a tremendous amount of information . . . . This isn’t just a ‘good idea’ —e we have evidence that it’s workable and sustainable.”

“You know, Michelle Obama worked in child care as a college student, and I think that is a great plug for our having a child care center on campus as a form of employment!” jokes Sherman.