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Ground Broken for Child Care Center

By Rich McManus

Photos by Damon Tighe and ORS

On the Front Page...

Wearing plastic hardhats and gripping mini-shovels, nine preschoolers from the NIH day care facility in Bldg. 35 helped a similar number of adults break ground recently on the new East Child Care Center, which is being built just east of the Natcher Bldg., near Rockville Pike. Scheduled for completion in April 2001, the 21,000-square-foot center will house some 100 children — about 80 in a pre-kindergarten program, and 20 in kindergarten. The facility will provide a new home for the Parents of Preschoolers, Inc., program in Bldg. 35 for kids ages 2 ½ to 5 ½, which will eventually close due to renovation in that building.

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"This new home will provide our children with a new, modern, state-of-the-art facility in which to learn and grow," said Dr. Deborah Henken, a program officer at NICHD who represents the NIH day care board; she was leadoff speaker at a brief ceremony. "We are excited to see the construction of this new home get under way."

"This is going to be a fantastic project," enthused Tony Clifford, director of the Division of Engineering Services, Office of Research Services. He said the wooded site was particularly well-suited to the needs of the center, which will boast a large outdoor playground. "This will provide an outstanding environment for kids to learn and grow."

Preschooler Brian Huang takes seriously his groundbreaking duties.

Henken had stressed that "employer-sponsored day care is critical to organizations that wish to attract and maintain a high-quality workforce," and said parents' productivity and performance were enhanced by such facilities. Agreeing with her was Steve Ficca, NIH associate director for research services: "Debbie's comments are right on the mark. This marks the beginning of more growth in providing a quality work environment for NIH employees." He said funds have been set aside in NIH's next budget for the design of yet another on-campus child care center, acknowledging that there is "a desperate, compelling need to do this. It's a very important component of recruiting top-quality staff, and we're very happy to have gotten this far."

Ficca divulged that the money for building the East Child Care Center has been available since 1998. "Finally, we have broken the inertia and have gained some momentum," he said. "We provide the facilities, but the day care operation is independent — they run the show, and they do a marvelous job."

Dr. Deborah Henken, NICHD program officer and NIH day care board representative, speaks at the ceremony.

Henken said the day care board "is very pleased that the need for increased child care spaces is being recognized and is being incorporated into [NIH's] master plan. This groundbreaking today is evidence of how far we've come. We at the NIH should take the lead in setting the example of what child care can and should be."

The new center, designed by architects at McKissack and McKissack and to be built by general contractor Gilford Corp., will go up under the guidance of Dexroy Chisim, architect and project officer in DES' Design, Construction and Alteration Branch. He is also project officer for the new NIH Fire Station, which starts in late fall. Drawings of the child care center show a circular central area, out of which two triangular arms extend, like pie slices. The structure will include four classrooms, administrative space, handicap accessible space, parent and teacher conference areas, kitchen, laundry and utility spaces.

Chisim said construction has already begun, unseen, in neighboring Bldg. 45, whose electrical resources will tie in with the new Child Care Center; safety fencing has also been erected around the site. The fencing has taken away some 180 parking spaces, and rerouted sidewalks and pedestrian pathways east of Natcher. Upon completion of the center, 20 short-term parking spaces will be available for parents to drop off and pick up children. Some additional employee spaces will be temporarily restored, although eventually the area is planned to be landscaped to provide outdoor play space and a garden for the children.

Adults at the ceremony included (standing, from l) Tony Itteilag, NIH deputy director for management; Sula Katopis, a teacher at the Bldg. 35 day care center; Steve Ficca, NIH associate director for research services; Dr. Deborah Henken, representing the NIH day care board; and Dexroy Chisim, project officer for the East Child Care Center. In the front row are (from l) Dana Bowman, Titas Bera, Brian Huang and Aiman Abdelmouti.

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