Bellarmine Hall. Barone Campus Center. Leslie C. Quick Jr. Center.
Soon, the Fairfield University Early Learning Center, an on-campus day care facility, will be added to the list of buildings on Fairfield’s campus.
In an effort to build a greater community and aid the critical need for an increase in early childhood educators around Connecticut, the University submitted a permit to the Fairfield Town Planning and Zoning Commission on Jan. 2. If approved, this would allow an early learning center to be built next to the PepsiCo Theater.
The center will be available for faculty, staff and students, and will follow predetermined state regulations, offering care for up to 36 children under specific state licensing.
“As a mom, it would be nice to have my son really close by,” said Rachel Brown, who works in the office of foundation relations.
Brown, who plans to enroll her son in the program, said she is excited about the extra time she will be able to spend with her son on the ride to campus.
“As a parent, and certainly a first-time parent adjusting to being a working mom, it is nice and comforting to have the day care nearby,” said Melissa Quan, a member of the planning committee who works in the office of service-learning.
Quan said she sees the facility as a gesture of support for the University’s staff and their family life.
“It will create a greater sense of community on campus,” she said.
The University’s Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions (GSEAP) will incorporate the facility into its curriculum, and undergraduate classes will incorporate material related to early childhood development.
Classes will observe and conduct interviews, as well as perform other tasks that will “enrich our curriculum,” according to Dean of the GSEAP Susan Franzosa.
“There are all sorts of possibilities,” she said.
The proposed early learning center is an important facility for an institution of Fairfield’s size to have, according to Senior Vice President William Weitzer.
The facility will aid the University in supporting and retaining faculty and staff.
Talk of an on-campus day care facility began during the 2002-2003 academic year, when new parents on campus, including Dina Franceschi, associate professor of economics, began discussing the difficulties of being a working parent.
As housing rates around Fairfield County have increased, more faculty and staff have moved to surrounding areas. The opportunity to have their children looked after at a facility on campus will build connection and unity, said Franceschi, whose children are now too old to participate in the program.
The 2,957 square-foot, one-story building will be designed to architecturally blend in with the neighborhood and campus. It will be entirely funded by the University, while additional costs will be covered by enrollment fees, causing no tuition increase for students.
Weitzer, who worked at two other collegiate establishments prior to coming to Fairfield more than one year ago, said he has seen such facilities work and positively enhance curriculum.
The GSEAP hopes to make an announcement soon regarding a new faculty member who will serve as an early childhood and educational advisor, according to Franzosa.
Announcements regarding an anticipated opening date, as well as scheduling and available job openings, will be made at an informational meeting by mid-March.
“The center will have a significant impact on educational programs and strengthen our curriculum,” said Franzosa.
While the University of Connecticut -Stamford has small, similar programs, according to Franzosa, there’s a real need for an increase in educators around the state, especially in the area around Fairfield.
The University has faculty members that have studied early childhood development, but it has not yet been offered as a course.