Armstrong issues childcare interest survey, launches discussion on student-parents


Katherine Arntzen

An Armstrong student plays with a boy and a toy train (Photo by Katherine Arntzen)

An Armstrong student plays with a boy and a toy train
An Armstrong student plays with a boy and a toy train (Photo by Katherine Arntzen)

Lauren Ashley, Staff Writer

Last Friday, Armstrong email inboxes received an interest survey which seeks to gain detailed information about the market for Armstrong-provided childcare services before its April 21 deadline.

According to the survey’s description, the catalyst for this research was yet another survey: “the results from the Campus Climate Survey, administered during the spring of 2015, indicated that there is a need for childcare for faculty, staff and students.”

The Campus Climate Survey was administered by the Office of the President and the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion along with the assistance of Rankin & Associates Consulting.

The results of the Campus Climate Survey have not been sitting idly since their unveiling in September. In November, a 12-member child care research taskforce was created, which includes at least one representative from each of the university’s colleges.

Dr. John Hobe, a department head in the College of Education, is the task force committee chair. He recalls the idea of childcare coming up many times over the years and hopes to refine the idea through this survey.

The interest survey asks participants to “indicate the level of importance of the types of provider services required” by those living, working and studying at Armstrong. Services in question reference specific times of year, parts of the day, age ranges and the availability of programs like preschool.

Those services, however, could be provided one of five possible ways. The majority of the options send students, faculty and staff with children in need of care to a local facility partner with a voucher, stipend or a pre-determined discount. The other option is an on-campus daycare facility.

Ursula Scheinbart, a student and mother of two, said, “I would love an on-campus daycare!” She explained that such a facility “would make the school more desirable for everyone” and noted that “students could do observation hours with the kids.”

College of Education students have to complete two internships that each require hundreds of observation hours. Their experiences at those internships are also the topic of an essay for their portfolio.

Currently, education majors are assigned to participating schools in the Savannah Chatham County Public School System, while the slowly growing number of child and family studies majors go to nearby Savannah Country Day School for observation hours.

Scheinbart said she would allow her two children to be put under the supervision of Armstrong education or child and family studies majors. “I’m sure they are more knowledgeable and caring than the average minimum wage daycare workers, who just want a paycheck,” she said.

Daryll Blackburn, a student and mother, said that one of the biggest challenges with daycare is the cost. “The current rate for a decent daycare is $200 a week, so if you can’t afford a luxury car, then you probably can’t afford daycare,” she said.

Since the fall semester, Blackburn has been collecting signatures for her petition that advocates for child care for Armstrong faculty, staff and students. “Going to college, she said, is a life changing event. Imagine all of a sudden facing two life changing events.”

Blackburn drew inspiration for the petition from her “personal understanding of the unimaginable hardships that these young parents face.”

“A daycare on-campus,” she said, “would mean success for student-parents in many ways.”

The first success came with Blackburn’s petition collecting nearly 700 signatures and continued with her appointment to the childcare research taskforce as a student representative.

Blackburn, however, would not be the sole beneficiary should daycare be provided. Other student-parents, she said, “could actually utilize all that Armstrong has to offer.”

Both Blackburn and Scheinbart said they would use the spare time childcare would provide them to further involve themselves in the Armstrong community.

For example, they could attend more campus functions, participate in student organizations, take more classes, schedule an appointment at the Writing Center, eat a sit-down dinner in the Galley, or enjoy a workout in the gym.

Morgan Connor, a senior English major, likes the idea of helping student-parents even though she isn’t one herself. “I don’t have kids,” she said, “but I have had plenty of classes with people who do, and when they can’t find anyone to watch their kids, they either skip classes or bring their kids with them. The latter is a huge distraction and the former hurts their overall education.”

Responses like Connor’s make up the majority of Blackburn’s interactions with students over her survey, but there are a few that dislike the idea, specifically how it will impact the university’s appeal.

According to Blackburn, some naysayers are worried that, with the implementation of an on-campus daycare, Armstrong “will look more like a school for the non-traditional students and less of a campus for traditional students.”

Those opposed and for childcare services, whether on or off campus, have the opportunity to make their voices heard through the childcare interest survey, but all participants are reminded that their responses will be used to inform decisions, not make them.

Students, faculty and staff have until April 21 at 5 p.m. to complete the online survey sent to their Armstrong email address. Questions regarding the survey or the childcare discussion should be directed at the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.