Tanaina Child Development Center at the University of Alaska last week received notice from the university that the center will need to find a new location. The decision has left many parents frustrated, but the two sides are still in discussions to see if a new agreement can be reached.
Though Tanaina has been housed on the university campus for decades, it operates as an independent non-profit organization. Scott Hamel is an assistant professor at the university and the president of the Tanaina board of directors. He says the university sent Tanaina a letter last week notifying them that their long-standing agreement would be terminated.
“It’s from 1989, and that agreement basically states that Tanaina will provide services and preference to students and faculty and staff in return for the space that it now occupies – and utilities,” he said.
In the letter, Hamel says the university cited space constraints and liability issues as reasons for the decision.
The program can accommodate around 60 children between 18-months and 5-years-old. Hamel says about 90 percent of those enrolled are the children of university students, staff and faculty – many of whom were wait-listed for 1 to 2 years.
Mark Shulman’s oldest son is in 1st grade, but was enrolled in Tanaina when he was younger. And Shulman says the benefits of the program have been easy to see.
“He actually had some issues with speech and it helped him get early notice so we could him extra support when he was two or three in speaking,” Shulman said. “And now, getting that help and continuing that help with the state and with them, it just, it helped him to progress into…he’s reading now and he’s doing a lot better with speech, but that extra help really..they need that development.”
Shulman has another son who is currently enrolled in Tanaina and hopes his youngest can begin attending this summer.
Discussions are still ongoing between Tanaina and the university, but Hamel says the center is looking for a new location if a new agreement doesn’t come to fruition. But, finding a new facility to suit Tanaina’s needs could be problematic.
It costs approximately $900 per month for a child to attend Tanaina.
This is a developing story.