The University of Michigan plans to develop a new child care center on the Ann Arbor campus that will be designed to meet the unique needs of health care workers at Michigan Medicine.
The Board of Regents on Oct. 20 approved a plan that will allow the university to enter into a partnership with an experienced, outside child care provider to design, build and operate a center.
The new facility will be built on Cornwell Place — east of Ingalls Street and close to Michigan Medicine and the School of Nursing — and will serve up to 200 children.
“University employees, and Michigan Medicine employees specifically, have significant need for child care,” said Marschall Runge, executive vice president for medical affairs and dean of the Medical School. “Currently, there are limited options with sufficient flexibility to meet employee needs, and even fewer options in close proximity to the medical center campus.”
Geoffrey Chatas, executive vice president and chief financial officer, will oversee the project, which is budgeted for up to $12 million. Chatas will be empowered to select and contract with the child care service partner, approving the design of the facility and negotiating all other construction and operations-related matters.
“We intend to structure our contract to take advantage of our partner’s national child care expertise to add more child care capacity quickly and efficiently,” Chatas said.
“Specifically, we would enter into an agreement with the partner to design, build and operate the child care facility, that is subject to university oversight. The university would retain ownership of the land and building and be responsible for financing the construction.”
As part of the design-build contract, Chatas said, the child care service partner will be required to comply with university building standards and design guidelines. Facilities & Operations will manage clearing the site in advance of construction, which includes the removal or demolition of two existing structures.
In the operating agreement, U-M also will establish key performance indicators for operational performance, to which the partner will be held accountable.
The new center is just one approach the university is developing to address the evolving child and family care needs of employees. A steering group of faculty and staff has been working since May to consider how the university can best support the child and family care needs of faculty and staff.
This work is part of a broader university effort by the Future of Work Steering Group to monitor and adjust how, where and when work is performed, while continuing to carry out the university’s missions and support an inclusive and flexible work environment. The group will make recommendations at the end of the year.
University leaders also have expressed that expanding child care is an important part of successful recruitment and retention of the best faculty, staff and students, as well as to enhance work-life balance and job satisfaction.
“The demand for services at our existing, on-campus children’s centers far exceeds capacity,” said Richard Holcomb, associate vice president for human resources, who co-chairs the Future of Work Steering Group with Christine Gerdes, special counsel to the provost.
Currently, children’s centers on the Ann Arbor campus include the Towsley Children’s House, North Campus Children’s Center and the Health System Children’s Center. The centers collectively accommodate approximately 430 children and are operated by U-M Human Resources.
I wonder why the new center is not also being run by the existing, in-house childcare program, which is absolutely excellent. Will the new center provide the same level of salary and benefits as the current childcare centers? Will the same standards of childcare be maintained?
It would be worthwhile to look at how the US military staffs and runs its Child Development Centers as a model for supporting families of employees that are called on to work unusual hours and schedules, sometimes on a moment’s notice. There’s an excellent profile from the NYTimes from August 31, 2021 that describes the unusual success of that system and why it is one worth emulating.