Child care center moves off campus

Story by Eric Christenson

With the original project $700,000 too expensive and with the time to vacate the current education building approaching, the UW-Eau Claire Foundation Inc. bought the St. Bede’s Monastery to be the new location of the Children’s Center.

“After we found out that we were so over budget, we started looking at outside places that would work for young children and more of a school type that would be large enough for all of our children,” said Rebecca Wurzer, director of the Children’s Center.

Wurzer said the Children’s Center Building Committee looked at the St. Bede’s Monastery, Little Red Elementary School and Eau Claire Lutheran School, currently a division of Epiphany Lutheran Church.

“St. Bede’s had more possibilities for us and the university. If we had gone to Little Red, it would have been only strictly for us,” Wurzer said. “And also distance; St. Bede’s is a little closer.”

The monastery was sold for $1 million and the Foundation Inc., which is an independent organization that receives donations from alumni, friends and donors, covered all costs.

St. Bede’s Monastery has approximately 112 mostly wooded acres in the Town of Washington, which is 3.4 miles away from lower campus, and three buildings totaling approximately 80,000 square feet, said Wurzer.

Chancellor Brian Levin-Stankevich said in a press release that St. Bede’s offers a unique and inspiring setting as well as substantial and varied building space that can be utilized for many educational purposes.

“Properties such as St. Bede’s become available once in a generation, if that,” he said. “The university is grateful to the foundation for purchasing the property in support of our current and future programs.”

But University Services Associate Nicole Owen, who currently has a child in the Children’s Center, said the monastery would be a great temporary solution since the university needs a location now, but it shouldn’t be long term.

“I think the facility itself is gorgeous and it has a lot to offer,” she said, “but it’s not an on-campus daycare, which is what you are looking for as a parent.”

Since the location is off campus, Owen said the university is pretty much asking parents to add 25 minutes to their already “hectic” morning, since they are going to have to drive to drop off and pick up their children.

Wurzer said she understands that some of the parents may be concerned with the distance, but it will be a priority to plan for a convenient shuttle service to and from campus for families and students who work or volunteer at the center.

But Owen thinks that this possibility hasn’t been thought through.

“The money you are going to pay for shuttle, gas, driver, insurance and this and that — it’s going to probably outweigh the cost that you were going to have to spend in constructing the new building,” she said.

Besides the distance, Wurzer said a number of issues must be resolved before they move to St. Bede’s. Renovations must be done to meet current code and licensing requirements from the city and state, zoning permits must be obtained and a use agreement between the Foundation Inc., university, Children’s Center and state must be approved.

Wurzer also said students, faculty and staff are invited to an open house at St. Bede’s Monastery from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m today at 1190 Priory Road.