Originally created 02/04/03

Construction begins on child-care center

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The new Child Development and Research Center under construction at the University of South Carolina marks a significant step for early childhood development, officials say.

"This is a unique and really significant private-public partnership that will make a center of excellence sustainable," said Susie VanHuss of the University of South Carolina Development Foundation.

There have been gaps in public and private day care in South Carolina. Private centers might offer care but not enough focus on learning.

Two prominent public centers in Columbia, meanwhile, offered developmental learning but also ran up deficits and required subsidies to stay open.

When it appeared imminent last year that the state's two accredited, state-run programs - ETV Children's Place and USC's Children's Center - the idea of collaborating on a new center arose.

David Jacobs of the privately run, for-profit Gateway Academy Child Development Centers met with parents and university officials. University of South Carolina education professor Mac Brown did curriculum consulting for Jacobs.

After making a location change, blueprint changes and receiving input from more groups, including the Health and Human Services Department, a plan emerged.

The development foundation helped obtain the property at the corner of Wheat and Pickens streets where the $4.1 million, 25,000-square-foot center is scheduled to open in July.

The University of South Carolina and Gateway Academy broke ground Monday on the new center.

"The center will deliver the best-quality care for the children and become a national model for early childhood education," University of South Carolina provost Jerry Odom said. "It not only will provide an opportunity for researchers to study and then implement the best practices in the classroom, but also will offer USC faculty and staff the very best childcare and educational setting anywhere in the area."

The facility will serve about 170 infant to preschool children and 30 after-schoolers up to 12 years old on its first floor.

Tuition will run 10 percent higher than at the other 10 non-accredited Gateway Centers in South Carolina. Costs are highest for infants and decrease with the child's age.

On average, Jacobs said, tuition would be in the mid-$90s per week. Brown estimated that more than half the budget would be spent on personnel.

Some grants and scholarships will be available to families. The Health and Human Services Department is providing grants that will open slots at the new center for children in Head Start programs and those who qualify for ABC vouchers.

An advisory board, appointed by Odom's office, will keep tabs on curriculum and research and a governing board will oversee fiscal operations. Gateway has primary responsibility for oversight and management of the operations.

Gateway, which runs 20 private, for-profit day-care centers in South and North Carolina and Colorado, will provide about $2 million for first-floor construction. Second-floor facilities have been funded through private donations and state agency grants.


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