Parents Voice Frustration Over Termination Of Tanaina, UAA Agreement

Scott Hamel answers questions from concerned parents and community members about the university's decision to terminate it's long-standing agreement with Tanaina. (Photo by Josh Edge - APRN - Anchorage)
Scott Hamel answers questions from concerned parents and community members about the university’s decision to terminate it’s long-standing agreement with Tanaina. (Photo by Josh Edge – APRN – Anchorage)

Tanaina Child Development Center has been housed on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus for decades, but, last week the group received a letter from the university saying they would need to find a new home. Parents gathered Monday night to ask questions and voice their concerns.

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“It’s already got me scrambling to find something to do,” Matt Rogers is a research scientist at UAA and has a child enrolled in Tanaina. “The prospect of finding child care right now is..it’s incredibly daunting to say the least. When I went through this process for the first time, it was almost a year-long wait to get my son into school here. And so for any of the places where you hope to send your kid, you’re looking at something comparable.”

Rogers’ thoughts echo those of the 50-plus parents gathered in UAA’s Student Union.

Scott Hamel is an assistant professor at the university and the president of the Tanaina board of directors. He says the long-standing agreement states the center would provide services and preferences to university students, staff and faculty in exchange for the space it now occupies and utilities. But, Hamel says in a memo sent last week, UAA alerted Tanaina that it was terminating the agreement.

“The reasons that they gave were that there was other people on campus that wanted the space and they also said that it’s a liability issue to have the kids on campus,” he said.

Tanaina accommodates about 60 children, between 18 months and 5-years-old.

The center anticipated moving to a new location over the summer temporarily while the Wells Fargo Sports Complex undergoes renovations, but, the university’s decision not to bring them back came as a surprise.

Bill Spindle is the vice chancellor of administration at UAA. He says it’s an unfortunate situation, but it’s a decision the university had to make.

“As much as we know it’ll be tough on the families – and I know, I’m a parent, I know how hard it is to get childcare, I totally sympathize,” Spindle said. “We don’t think this is the right place to do it, not that we don’t want to be associated with child care. We don’t think that space is adequate, we don’t have adequate space at the moment. As I’ve told them, I’m willing to help them look for other space and see what’s out there, but we’re just limited financially.”

It’s unclear what will move into the space currently occupied by Tanaina, but Spindle says some of the student services offered at the University Center could use the space.

Though the current agreement is ending, Spindle says UAA is open to the possibility of a new partnership in the future.

“There are definitely issues here that we want to try to mitigate,” he said. “We will do the best we can in that area, but for the long term looking at the mission of the university, you know, child care center is a good service, it’s an important one, but we don’t think that’s the best place for it and we think now is the time to move it. But we’re willing to try to partner if we can figure out how to do it.”]

Tanaina has been housed on the UAA campus for decades, but it operates as an independent non-profit.

Discussions about the future of the Tanaina, UAA partnership are ongoing. In the meantime, Tanaina is looking into alternate locations.