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HCC launches Children's Learning Center

September 01, 1998|By MATTHEW BIENIEK

The opening of a day-care center at Hagerstown Community College fulfills the dreams of at least two women.

Terry Kitchen, director of the new Children's Learning Center, has always wanted to run a day-care center.

And Sara Washington expects to complete her work toward an associate's degree because she has nearby and affordable day care for son Deshay, 4.

"I feel like I need to be in reach of him," said Washington, a former stay-at-home mom.

Washington said she could not go to school without the day-care center. She said the fees for the three days a week she is in school are affordable.

The center charges students $10 a half day for preschoolers, and $18 for a full day. A $15 application fee is due for each child.

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Washington's husband, Demarco is in the Navy, and his transfers have slowed her educational progress because she's had to jump from school to school.

Hagerstown Community College is the last community college in Maryland to provide day-care services. But Washington said of the four community colleges she's attended, only Mesa Community College in San Diego, Calif., provided day care for children of students.

"It's really been a dream - to have my own preschool. This is a way to achieve it without the capital," said Kitchen.

Kitchen lives in Frederick County, Md., where she was assistant director of the Head Start program, she said.

Patricia Churchey, HCC's director of public information, said a day-care center has been in the works for seven or eight years, but putting together the money was a problem.

The school decided to use a combination of money from bookstore profits and grants to fund the center until it could become self-supporting.

A grant for $42,552 from the Washington County Gaming Commission provided playground and classroom equipment including jungle gyms and tricycles. Students can ride the tricycles around a bicycle path in the fenced-in playground, which is still under construction but will be completed in a few weeks, Kitchen said.

The center is licensed to care for up to 67 children at one time, said Kitchen. At full staff, the center will have 11 to 13 full- and part-time employees, she said.

The Children's Learning Center opened Monday, the first day of classes at HCC. Sixteen students were registered to attend, said Kitchen. The center occupies space that used to be as a student lounge, she said.

All the doors are pinch-point free to protect little fingers and bathrooms have child-size facilities with faucets operated by movement sensors so there is no fussing with handles to turn water on and off, she said.

The center divides classes by student age. A Tiny Tots class if for children 2 to 3 years old, preschool is for toilet-trained youngsters ages 3 to 5, and a full-day accredited kindergarten program is available.

The center is open to children of students, faculty, and the community. Children of students have priority in placement, said Kitchen.

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