The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 39.0°F | Fair
Infographic by Sarah Ritter
Article Tools

On Oct. 1, MIT opened a new daycare center at 219 Vassar Street. The center, known as David H. Koch Childcare Center or TCC Koch, is the fourth of MIT’s Technology Childcare Center (TCC) facilities. Three other on-campus centers are located at Eastgate, Westgate, Stata, and the fourth is in Lincoln, Mass., serving all MIT affiliates including Lincoln Labs employees. Additionally, there is also an on-campus infant care room in Building 68.

“The center was opened smoothly and successfully,” said Alison Alden, MIT’s Vice President for Human Resources. “The parents are thrilled, and the center had an enormous positive impact in responding to campus demand.”

“The opening of [TCC Koch] allowed us to meet nearly all existing demand for MIT childcare,” said Kathy L. Simons, senior program manager of childcare services and work-life policy at the MIT Work-Life Center.

Many students and post-doctoral associates who had been in need of childcare were finally able to obtain spots with the opening of TCC Koch. The current parent enrollment there is 38 percent postdocs, 28 percent MIT staff, 26 percent students, and eight percent faculty. “Childcare at MIT tends to be expensive for students, and generally difficult to find in the Cambridge area,” noted Brian Spatocco G, former president of the Graduate Student Council.

TCC Koch has a maximum capacity of 126 slots — 21 infant, 45 toddler, and 60 preschool — which nearly doubled campus childcare capacity. 97 of the 126 slots have been opened, and the remaining two classrooms will open later if needed to meet increasing demand.

The center features three infant classrooms, all of which are currently open; four open toddler classrooms with a fifth set to open in the early winter; and two open preschool classrooms with a third set to open in late winter or early spring. TCC Koch currently employs three teachers for each of the nine open classrooms, a director, an administrative assistant, and three educational coordinators who support the teaching staff (one for infant rooms, one for toddlers, and one for preschool).

In addition, the center features a “gross motor room,” which allows children to participate in active play such as jumping, dancing, and singing.

The opening of TCC Koch provided spaces for all but six of the 500 families that had been on a waiting list and indicated a need for care at the present time. Simons noted that there are 157 families on the waiting list who are still looking for care in the future, either for anticipated children or children who will soon reach the desired age for entry into the appropriate childcare program. Some families also stayed on the waiting list to keep the option open of transferring from another childcare program.

A new enrollment policy has been in place for all daycare centers since the spring to make the process easier for families. Families who apply for a spot on the waiting list are allowed to turn down an open spot that meets their requirements (age group, schedule, and start date) in a childcare program once and remain on the waiting list. However, when a family turns down an open spot a second time, the family will lose their spot on the waiting list, and if they choose to reapply, will be placed toward the bottom of the list according to the date of the new application. The policy is in place so that families who need childcare immediately will have a better chance of getting a space, and all will have a better sense of when they might get a space.

After TCC Koch opened, 187 families declined a space but chose to remain on the waiting list.

Before the building of TCC Koch, some students had voiced concerns of safety because homeless people could frequently be seen across the railroad tracks from the site. However, Alden and Simons are confident about the issue of safety. “There have been no problems or any concerns voiced by parents,” said Simons. The children’s playground is fully enclosed by a fence that is eight feet high along the train tracks and eight feet high along Vassar. The playground is only accessible from inside the center or with a key, and the center itself is accessible only from the front door by card reader or from the secured playground.

Backup childcare program

In addition to the opening of TCC Koch, Simons notes that MIT Human Resources has been collaborating with Dean of Graduate Education Christine Ortiz and the GSC Housing and Community Affairs Subcommittee to implement programs that satisfy the needs of student families.

One such program is the new backup childcare program that started in July, which provides students with caregivers on short notice through Parents in a Pinch (PiaP), a national vendor for childcare services. “Providing access to reliable, high quality short‐term childcare translates into less stress and anxiety, less missed or shortened work days, and enables our graduate student families to find a more manageable work/life balance,” commented Ortiz in an email to The Tech.

For up to 10 days of the fiscal year, students can use the backup childcare service, which provides a nanny at $5 an hour. Any days beyond the 10 days will cost $18.50 per hour and a daily placement fee ranging from $25 to $50. The program will be run until June 30, 2014 as a pilot, when it will be reexamined for renewal.

During the first four months of the program’s operation, 117 students have pre-registered for the program, accounting for about 20 percent of graduate students with children. 54 students have used the service at least once. A PiaP satisfaction survey indicated that 78 percent of respondents were “extremely satisfied” and the remaining 22 percent “satisfied.” 100 percent of respondents said they would use the service again.”

Spatocco added that, first and foremost, the program allows students to tend to emergencies, but also allows for time for graduate students to engage in opportunities they would otherwise miss, such as networking events, participation in student organizations, and professional development events. “The new program has stimulated more discussion on the most effective ways to provide childcare services to graduate students,” he said.

More information regarding TCC Koch and MIT’s childcare services is available on childcare.mit.edu.