Children’s Center to have new hours in fall

Story by Anna Soldner

The UW-Eau Claire Children’s Center will be changing its hours in an effort to better accommodate parents during the move to St. Bede Monastery this fall.

Class hours will be pushed back 30 minutes, now beginning at 7 a.m. and ending at 5:30 p.m.

Children’s Center director Becky Wurzer said the extension of time is necessary with the increased travel distance.

“It’s just going to be a convenience for  parents — maybe not even a convenience, maybe a necessity because of class hours,” Wurzer said. “If you have a class that starts at eight, and you have to bring your child out there plus get back here and parked, it’ll be nice to have a little bit more time in the morning, little more in the afternoon.”

Due to limited space, an outdated facility and the imminent renovation of the education building, the Children’s Center will relocate three miles away from campus to St. Bede in the town of Washington starting this fall.

Wurzer said that initially, the decision to move off-campus was met with some apprehension, but now the majority of parent and teacher feedback is positive.

“I think at first, parents were concerned about the distance and taking a little more time in the morning,” she said, “but we had an open house out there and parents could see their children playing and I think they’ve changed their minds.”

Lisa Coen, a fourth-year teacher, is excited about the new location.

“I really think with the move comes a lot of opportunities for children, families and us as staff,” Coen said.

Eau Claire English professor Blake Westerlund, who has two sons enrolled at the center, views the time adjustment as a necessary step in the progression of the center.

“I think everybody would have liked to have the center right on campus, but that just wasn’t possible,” Westerlund said. “St. Bede’s is three miles away, so there’s a distance to be covered there. I think with them opening earlier and closing later that gives us parents more wiggle room.”

Junior elementary education major and parent Kristyn Hayes said that for the most part, the change of hours won’t phase her.

“I’m kind of used to it because I drop (my son) off here. I go park my car, and then I walk back to campus anyway so it’s really not going to be a difference besides traveling an extra few minutes,” she said.

The new facility boasts a nature center and 112 acres of wooded land, allowing children more space to play and explore and providing the teachers with on-site resources to incorporate nature into lesson plans.

Westerlund said he’s willing to travel the extra distance when it comes to his children’s happiness and well-being.

“I feel the adjustment is worth it when I look at what they are doing with the curriculum here at the Children’s Center,” he said. “They have a real focus on green issues and to me that’s worth any adjustment. I want my kids to be surrounded by trees and trails instead of city buses and a parking lot.”

Starting in the fall of 2012, the center will combine their infant and toddler classes, therefore consolidating trips for families with multiple children.

In addition, the university will be offering campus shuttle rides at the convenience of students commuting to and from St. Bede.

“There are certainly more advantages than disadvantages, and actually we’re not thinking in the terms of what has been, but what can be,” Coen said. “It really will be a win-win in the end.”