CELC relocation isn’t just a housing solution

By Bonnie Wertheim '14

Last week’s cover story, “Clinton Early Learning Center to relocate off the Hill,” suggested that an on-campus housing shortage was the sole motivator for the daycare center’s plans to move its facilities downtown to Clinton Elementary School. Karen Leach, vice president of administration & finance, is at the head of the relocation planning process and explained that the issue is far more complex than The Spectator originally portrayed.

Root Residence Hall “hasn’t been touched since 1968” and therefore “doesn’t meet modern standards” for a childcare facility, Leach said. For example, the Center is laid out over two floors, whereas New York State daycare codes mandate that these facilities only comprise a single floor. Renovating Root such that it would comply with these codes would require the addition of a new wing, which would be exceedingly costly.  Plus, the College already plans to renovate Root in the summer of 2015 to transform the current space into new dorms. Those beds, combined the ones that the new Minor suites will offer after their renovation this coming summer, will add up to 52 new beds for students. Leach hopes that these additions will allow her to re-centralize Hamilton housing, bringing students from downtown and Anderson Road back to the dorms on the Hill.

Because Root can no longer house the Clinton Early Learning Center (CELC), Leach met with an architect to see how much it would cost to build a new facility on campus. She received a $1.6 million estimate for the construction costs—a number far larger than the College would like to pay given the number of large construction projects it has already taken on for the next few years.

Leach considered a few locations off the Hill, such as St. Mary’s Preschool in Clinton, but many simply did not have the space to accommodate a childcare facility. She was looking for about 6,000 square feet of space for the new center, and Clinton Elementary School could offer over 5,000 square feet in a private wing of the building that opened up to the outside. Because the elementary school is also less than a mile and a half down the Hill, it seemed close enough to the original location that parents might not be too upset by the move. Plus, the relocation could prove mutually beneficial: Clinton public schools have experienced a decline in enrollment and, in turn, have faced a decline in revenue. Should the CELC move to Clinton Elementary School, Hamilton will subsidize the public school’s costs and pay in full for any renovations to the wing where the new Center will be located.

When Leach brought the parents of CELC-enrolled children down to Clinton Elementary to inspect the new site, many found the space “institutional” in appearance. It lacked the bright colors and “bucolic” setting that Root and the College have historically offered children in the daycare program.

“I understand why people like having their kids here,” Leach said. As it stands, the children have access to the Glen and other on campus facilities. And the current location of the Center is especially convenient for College faculty and employees who want to be able to see their children throughout the day. Of the 50 students enrolled in the Center right now, 17 have Hamilton-employed parents.

Hamilton students also benefit currently from the Center’s on-campus location, as several of them volunteer at the CELC on a weekly basis. Leach is still figuring out the logistics of transporting students from the Hill to Clinton Elementary School.

Though the planning committee has yet to make a final decision on the CELC’s relocation, Leach said the Center “is likely to move.”


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