Some student parents have had to face the stressful dilemma of choosing between a test score and the safety of their children.
Christine Fiscer, a junior psychology major from Ivins, said she’s had to take a zero on at least one test during her time at Dixie State University because she and her husband struggle with situations plenty of other parents share: the inability to afford day care and the difficulties of finding a babysitter.
Fiscer, mother of four children — ages 12, 10, 8 and 3 — even found herself rushing into the testing center last spring, worrying less about her test and more about her children waiting for her in the car. She said while she would never leave her children in her car during hot summer months, student parents like herself face extra challenges that could be reduced with on-campus child care facilities.
“It seems ridiculous to not have something we can utilize for our kids during our time [at Dixie,]” Fiscer said. “I know so many people who don’t have kids have told us ‘Oh just get a sitter,’ and it’s not that easy.”
When Dannelle Larsen-Rife, chair of social and behavioral sciences, began hearing stories of student parents leaving children in their cars in order to take exams, she proposed a Playcare for the Testing Center. She also supervises research to assess the needs of faculty, students and staff, including student parents.
Larsen-Rife said the lack of child-friendly resources may create unnecessary stressors on student parents.
“I want to support our students in any way I can, and I think this is a really small, very cost-effective thing to help promote students’ academic achievement and the wellbeing of children,” Larsen-Rife said.
Larsen-Rife said a survey was distributed during spring semester to about 200 students at the Testing Center and various classes on campus, and its results showed about 35 percent of students have a child and have a need for a Playcare at the Testing Center. Another 62 percent of students said they were somewhat or very likely to have a child within the next three years.
Administration has approved the Playcare proposal and set aside an empty room in the Testing Center, so now all that’s left is to do is establish funding to remodel and furnish the room and hire staff, Larsen-Rife said.
If enough grant money and donations come through, the Playcare is expected to be open next semester, Larsen-Rife said. While the project has begun to receive donations, additional funds still need to be collected to meet its anticipated budget, especially to make it a state-of-the-art facility.
According to the proposal, the minimum cost needed for the Playcare is about $30,000 for initial costs — for remodeling and furnishing the room — and $40,000 for ongoing funds to staff the center. For a state-of-the-art facility and best practices for child development, the center will need about $35,000 for initial costs and roughly $65,500 for ongoing funds in order to hire a full-time director and staff.
Larsen-Rife said the Playcare is anticipated to be soundproofed for the testing center, developmentally appropriate for children, and free for students taking exams. The center will accept children up to age 12, including infants, for up to 90 minutes at a time, she said.
Additionally, the Playcare is expected to provide an observational setting students studying developmental psychology or childhood education, as well as internship and paid job opportunities, Larsen-Rife said.
Ronjai Staton, a senior psychology major from Albuquerque, New Mexico, has been working with Larsen-Rife along with other students in the Playcare research group. He encouraged all students to support the Playcare’s construction.
“If every student gave maybe $1, this would get kick started in less than a month,” Staton said. “Everyone knows somebody — a sister, brother, friend — who has a kid, so it’s an easy fix to a big issue.”
Larsen-Rife said all students, faculty and staff can participate in the ongoing Family Support Study (open until December) online at dixie.edu to voice other needs they may have. Donations can be made through dixie.edu/giving by selecting “other” and entering “DSU Playcare” or by visiting Larsen-Rife in the McDonald Center, Room 225.