When the first of Kristy Maddux’s three children was born, she said there weren’t a lot of options for childcare in College Park.
As a University of Maryland employee, she had access to the university’s resources for finding childcare services — but even so, she said, she searched for a daycare for a long time.
“The unknowns are pretty stressful,” Maddux, a professor in the communication department, said. “It’s hard to know that you’re going to have this baby come along, and you’re going to have to get back to work after a few weeks, and you don’t know what you’re going to do with the baby and whether you can find somebody that you can trust.”
Maddux and other parents in the city will soon have more options with a new preschool set to open in College Park in the coming months.
Monarch Preschool College Park — founded and funded by The Children’s Guild, a non-profit organization — was originally supposed to open in January. Now, though, construction delays have pushed that opening to February at the earliest, said Duane Arbogast, The Children’s Guild’s chief strategy and innovation officer.
“I think we need more of these amenities,” said District 1 Councilwoman Kate Kennedy. “I know that I have friends that are traveling far to drop off their kids for daycare, or they’re being waitlisted. The demand is so high.”
Renovations on a portion of the church that will house the school are currently underway. The completed school will feature six classrooms, serving a maximum of 120 students total, Arbogast said.
The preschool will add to childcare options in an area that’s currently lacking. The Center for Young Children, located on this university’s campus and housed under the education college, enrolls students aged 3-5, prioritizing university affiliates’ children.
And the Play and Learn Family Daycare, located on Cree Lane, has a maximum capacity of 8.
Though it does provide full-day care, the waitlist to get into the center is long, and enrollment is not cheap: Full-time enrollment — five days a week from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for the 10-month academic year — tuition comes to $12,220 per year, or $1,222 per month.
Full-day tuition at Monarch Preschool will be a little bit cheaper, clocking in at $1,100 per month. Before and after-school care options are available, priced at $80 and $110 respectively, according to the preschool’s website.
“Your pricing is based on your costs, and your costs are based on the kind of school you want to run,” Arbogast said. “We tried to get the lowest price point, but still have our qualified and certified staff.”
Though she thinks childcare in the area is “prohibitively expensive,” College Park resident Kristy Maddux said that she could not “in good conscience” argue it should be cheaper.
“Childcare workers are still dramatically underpaid,” Maddux said. “I understand this is a huge bind — I teach in a graduate program. Our graduate students struggle to find good childcare for their kids. And yet, the people taking care of our kids are not making enough money.”
Monarch Preschool isn’t the only new childcare center opening up in the vicinity. A daycare operated by early education and daycare provider Bright Horizons is under construction on Calvert Road.
“Daycare is much cheaper than a preschool,” Arbogast said. “There will be families who select daycare, who won’t select us, and we understand that. We’re a piece of the continuum of services.”
The university and the city have partnered to build the Calvert daycare, which will reserve a few of its 120 seats for city residents not affiliated with the university and then prioritize students whose parents are university employees.
Unlike that daycare and the on-campus center, Monarch Preschool won’t prioritize university employees’ children — seats in the school will be handed out on a first come, first served basis.
Valerie Woodall, who works on the College Park City-University Partnership, said Monarch’s story began around 2013 or 2014, when the partnership’s research found there was a high demand for preschool seats in the area.
That research launched efforts by the partnership’s education committee to find early learning providers who would be interested in opening a new preschool in College Park. In spring 2016, the partnership’s search led it to The Children’s Guild, which agreed to work with the city and the university to establish a new preschool in the area, Arbogast said.
After surveying more than eight potential sites for the new preschool, the Guild eventually settled on a Methodist church just off Rhode Island Avenue.
Though she said supports the preschool’s opening, Maddux isn’t sure whether it will fulfill the needs of city residents.
“I’m not sure it solves our primary need here which is actually for kids zero to three — that’s where the real crunch is,” Maddux said. “I want this preschool to be successful, and I want all of our kids to be happy and loving and safe in environments, but I also know there is more need for care for younger kids.”