Students with children push for play care on campus

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Oftentimes parenting and schoolwork collide head-on for students with a backpack and diaper bag slung across both shoulders.

Dixie State University faculty and administrators are assessing the need of child care on campus. The potential development of a play care center at the testing center could be the first step in aiding students with children.

Dannelle Larsen-Rife, chair of social and behavioral sciences and assistant professor, said numerous groups at DSU have looked into creating a day care for about five years. Those efforts progressed last fall when Larsen-Rife began working with both students and faculty members to conduct a needs assessment. 

   “I know anecdotally students, faculty and staff have really talked about providing something for all of these people, adding some flexible day care on campus to meet these various needs,” Larsen-Rife said. 

The aim of the study became more specific during a research meeting when the group realized what a struggle parents face, Larsen-Rife said.

“Parents will leave kids in the car — lock them in the car — to go take an exam, and I’ve had never heard that before,” Larsen-Rife said. “And so I kind of thought about it, and I started mentioning it to other faculty.”

Larsen-Rife said other faculty members had heard similar stories, so the research group zeroed its efforts in, initiating a proposal for the play care. 

Psychology adviser Deborah Decker said the addition is particularly important because it not only helps students, but also alleviates a safety hazard.

“If that’s an issue preventing them from taking tests in the testing center, or if they’re feeling they are in a situation where they’re choosing to put their children in a locked vehicle while they’re taking an exam, then I think at that point we need to … say, ‘OK, what would it take to offer this service to students?’” Decker said.

As the group wraps up its initial research and works to answer basic questions in regards to funding for the play care, Larsen-Rife said students should expect to see a more formal child care needs assessment for students, staff and faculty distributed across campus by either the end of this month or March. Students can contribute to the play care’s development and the development of a child care facility by filling out the assessment, she said. 

“We hope every person on campus, from administrators to students, will fill out this questionnaire; it will be about a [15-minute] questionnaire,” she said.

Although the play care addition is still in the proposal stage, Larsen-Rife said she hopes the center will open by the end of the semester. Geared toward infants to 12-year-olds, the play care can act as a foundation to assisting student parents at DSU.

Michelle Hammon, a senior psychology major from St. George, has collaborated with Larsen-Rife, Decker and other members of the research group. She said the play care ultimately lets students with children know they play an important part in DSU’s progression.

“I think play care is a great first step in letting students with children know that DSU recognizes they are part of the student body and [that] DSU is willing to support them when they can,” Hammon said.