UT Child Development Center plans to expand Lavaca Street location, add 40 spots by May 2022

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Photo Credit: Helen Brown | Daily Texan Staff

There are currently 650 children on the waitlist for UT child care. The University’s Child Development Center is planning to expand its Lavaca Street location and add 40 more spots by May 2022, potentially alleviating the waiting list for child care.

Program director Hara Cootes said the center plans to expand their newest location at Lavaca Street through a partnership with the state government, with an emphasis on adding more classroom space for children under 2 years old. The original center was built in 1991 to provide child care to University students, staff and faculty, according to their website. 

Brian Evans, chair of the University Faculty Council, said faculty have been concerned with the lack of access to child care for those on campus and has worked with the center to implement expansions. Evans said the concerns were brought up in a staff meeting last June, when the waiting list for the center had 534 infants, 94 toddlers and eight 4-year-olds.

“At this time of year, we have a lot of families who’ve gotten off the waiting list,” Cootes said. “Our waiting list numbers are a little lower now than they might be if you were to call me in March.”

The newest child care campus was given to the center for free four years ago and is shared between University and government employees, she said.

“We split the spaces,” Cootes said. “The opportunity was too big to pass up.”

Cootes said it is not impossible to enroll a child to the center. The wait for older children, such as age three to four, is much shorter.

“I got a call (Thursday) about a family who’s at UT who would like care for a 4-year-old, and they (enrolled) Monday,” Cootes said.

Paige Kubenka, rhetoric and writing senior, said she saw student parents struggling to get their children enrolled while she was the president of Horns for Life.

“One mentioned that she had placed her child on the waiting list at the UT Child Development Center as soon as she could and still hadn’t gotten off over a year later,” Kubenka said.

Kubenka said student parents usually have fewer resources than staff or faculty and struggle to find child care in Austin.

“Parenting students need child care, while they are in class at the minimum, and often they do not have friends or relatives who can help,” Kubenka said.

Cootes said University students, staff and faculty are all given equal priority when applying to the center and that they only serve the UT community.

“It’s always been that way,” Cootes said. “At our campus programs, we’ve never prioritized one group over the other.”

Outside of the center, Kubenka said she wishes the University had more resources for student parents, such as changing tables, lactation rooms and ways for student parents with strollers to navigate campus.

“These are things that most students probably aren’t thinking about, but parenting students are constantly noticing,” Kubenka said. “We need to be talking to parenting students and listening to what changes would be most beneficial for them.”

Editor's Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly reported that the additional spots would be added by May 2020, not 2022. The Texan regrets this error. Additionally, clarifying information was added to the article about how the expansion will affect the center.