Management of the Child and Family Center announced Jan. 3 that the childcare center, the only one available on campus for Long Beach State faculty and staff, would close for renovation July 1 without a plan for relocation.
This announcement gave parents six months to find a new childcare center off campus, a seemingly impossible task, as most childcare centers have waitlists that are years long.
“The administrators feel like they gave us six months and that seems like a lot of time,” said Jason Deutschman, the associate director of academic advising for the College of Engineering. “However, it’s not.”
Deutschman said his children, one son four and a half years old and the other son ten months, have been on the waitlist for other childcare centers in Long Beach for multiple years.
“They call and ask, not that they have a spot, but if we still want to be on the waitlist,” Deutschman said. “It’s a huge problem.”
Lori Baralt, the department chair and associate professor of Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies, said she has yet to find a childcare provider with open spots in June.
“They pretty much universally will say no,” Baralt said.
Faculty and staff parents regarded the CFC as a “hidden gem,” Baralt said, praising the childcare center for not only the high quality in teachers who were on staff, but the geographic and economic convenience of the location.
Kirstyn Chun, a counselor faculty member for Counseling and Psychological Services, whose child just graduated from CFC in August 2022, said her child was at two other centers off campus before a spot opened in 2018 at CFC.
“They’re understaffed at the off-campus centers,” Chun said. “There’s not a lot of time to clean the toys thoroughly.”
The psychologist said she had to miss several days of work because her child constantly came home with illnesses such as hand, foot, and mouth disease as well as pink eye when her child was enrolled at off campus childcare centers.
In October 2022, Wendy Reiboldt, the department chair of Family and Consumer Sciences, told CFC parents in a town hall meeting that the childcare center would close for renovation in 2023, and that a relocation spot would be provided.
“That was the first time we were notified about the expansion and that relocation was going to happen,” Deutschman said. “They made us all think they were working on it.”
In late November 2022 a “small team toured an identified space for the temporary relocation of the CFC,” according to the email sent on Jan. 3, but the team found the space to be “suboptimal.”
Some parents wondered if The Pointe, a collection of conference rooms located in Walter Pyramid, could serve as a temporary relocation spot the way it did for the Isabel Patterson Child Development Center.
Several years ago, the roof of Isabel Patterson, the on-campus childcare center for student-parents, had collapsed and the childcare moved into The Pointe for three weeks.
“That was a very different situation,” Reiboldt said in an email. “Their temporary relocation to The Pointe did not require a need to obtain a new license.”
Since the CFC would need a relocation area for over a year, it would require a new license that would take several months to obtain. Experts in childcare licensing said the building of The Pointe would most likely not meet the requirements for a new license.
Delaying the renovation project to find a relocation spot was not possible, according to Reiboldt, as the project was already over budget and the delay “would cause additional increases in the cost.”
“In the past few years since COVID started, the costs of construction have gone up over 50% compared to a roughly 3% annual increase historically,” Reiboldt said in an email. “This completely changed the plans for the project and what was possible.”
The planning for the renovation project began in 2020 when the university first received the grant, Reiboldt said, but the first phase of the architectural design plan began over the summer in 2022.
Cost estimates were updated after the first phase was completed in October 2022, and Reiboldt said these updated costs lead to a re-evaluation of a temporary location “due to many unforeseen challenges.”
“We provided a six-month notice, as soon as we possibly knew there were no viable alternatives,” Reiboldt said, adding that licensing agencies for childcare in the area, as well as contacts for leave options for faculty and staff parents, will be provided in a CFC bulletin later this month.
The CFC will cease all operations by July 1 until the 2024-2025 academic year, and a specific re-opening date has yet to be determined.