The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Budget cuts shake up future of Children’s Center

With the plans to construct a new education building set for the spring of 2012, the UW-Eau Claire Children’s Center that shares the building will have
to relocate.

Student Senate Finance Director Patrick Martin said that currently the chancellor and other administrators are deciding whether or not to switch to an off-campus facility for the childcare center to move to.

Martin said plans for an off-campus location have been made, but they’ve gone around $700,000 over budget and now significant cuts have to be made, which fogs up the future of the center in
a big way.

“When they were originally designing the plans, it was going to be a pretty incredible state-of-the-art facility and unfortunately because it was so far over budget, they’ve had to cut out a lot of the neater features of the facility,” he said, “It is fairly bare bones, just meeting the requirements in order to have kids in the building.”

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The project exceeded the budget when some necessary ground improvements had to be made to the tune of well over a million dollars
Martin said.

Rebecca Wurzer, assistant director of the Children’s Center outlined a lot of the cuts that the center’s plan is going through including cuts to classrooms, turf for playgrounds and an
outdoor stage.

The cuts, Wurzer said, are starting to worry parents.

“It depends on so many things we don’t know,” Wurzer said. “Right now, parents are nervous, we don’t know what’s happening. We know (the current) building’s going down in the spring. We don’t know where we’re going.”

Wurzer said it’s a real concern for students’ with children who may look to get on a waiting list at other childcare facilities if the uncertainty

Like many other schools, Wurzer said, the Children’s Center is dealing with heightened class sizes and ill-fitting space to accommodate those numbers.

“The classroom size right now is small enough that it’s just the bare minimum of what is necessary for square footage per child,” Wurzer said. “That’s bare minimum; it’s not what’s best
for children.”

Lisa Coen is a teacher at the Lightning Bugs Room in the Children’s Center and she said that the center’s staff is devoted to creating the best possible educational experience with the children.

“I think the staff here is dedicated to providing the best quality care and setting goals and moving ahead and doing the best things for children regardless of where we are,” Coen said. “It’s what we want to do for kids and it’s what we want to do for families of the community.”

Coen emphasized that the center is cutting most of their wants in the plans and focusing on their needs.

Martin said that many cuts have already been made and the plans are still $400,000 over budget and plans are still up in the air.

“I’m still waiting to find out if they’re going to need to retroactively change what has been allocated over the past couple years or if they just need to shift it to the next budget cycle or two,”
Martin said.

In the meantime, more insecurity lays in what the center will do in the limbo between when the current building is destroyed and a new building is erected.

Wurzer said that it’s imperative to stay open in lieu of the cuts and uncertainty.

“We have to find something where there’s continuing programming for these people,” she said. “We have over 200 children here and if all of a sudden we closed — there’s not that much child care in Eau Claire, so we have to stay open.”

And while it might not be the facility they had hoped for, Wurzer is confident that some features of the new location will still be beneficial including access to more nature curriculum, and doors from classroom to outside for indoor/outdoor continual classrooms.

“It’ll be a beautiful new building, which will be so much better than some of the issues with this old building,” Wurzer said. “It would have a beautiful view of
the river.”

Martin said that despite the shortcomings of the new center due to cuts, providing child care options is still a high priority.

“It’s not quite the Cadillac facility we were hoping for but Eau Claire, for a long time now, has offered incredible child care,” Martin said, “and it’s definitely something we’re going to be continuing in the future. It’ll just be in a possible different form than we had envisioned.”

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Budget cuts shake up future of Children’s Center