Community College of Allegheny County plans to outsource management of campus child care centers that have been operated by CCAC since its founding but of late are running nearly half-empty and at an operating loss.
College officials said their hope is that contracting with an outside provider specializing in such care will enable the campus centers to operate more efficiently and help CCAC identify new clients, either students with children or the general public.
Some parents, though, are apprehensive about the planned switch.
The centers -- located on the college's Allegheny, Boyce, North and South campuses -- have space collectively for approximately 150 children, but as of this fall, enrollment stands at 68, said college spokeswoman Elizabeth Johnston.
The underusage is tied at least partly to declining enrollment at the college, she said. This fall alone, enrollment is off across the college by 8 percent.
The college released data showing the centers collectively cost about $720,000 yearly to operate and had operating losses, after fees from clients, of $458,000 and $451,929 in 2011 and 2012, respectively.
"In order to better utilize [the college's] limited resources and ensure the continued viability of the program, the college seeks to contract with a child care services provider ... to operate and manage (the centers) commencing in January of 2014," the college said in a request for proposals that carries an Oct. 8 deadline for responses by interested firms.
In addition to providing day care, the centers, which date to the college's 1963 founding, also provide learning opportunities for students enrolled in the Early Child Development programs, officials said.
Some parents like Beth Jones, 28, a nursing student from Bethel Park, are unhappy about the change. She worries what it will mean for her 3-year-old son, Mason. Ms. Jones said the centers' reputation, teachers and accreditation led her to enroll him this fall in the South Campus center, and she is fearful of a potential change in staff.
"If they're bringing in somebody for less, who are they bringing in?" she said.
Amy Paczan, 39, of West Mifflin said she trusts her 3-year-old daughter Ryanna with the college's curriculum, its safety standards and personnel. "We want the teachers who are there," she said.
Ms. Johnston said the hope is that a number of current center employees, if not all of them, will remain, and she said the request for proposals asks firms if they would be willing to retain present staff. She said the college wants "to enhance the participation in the child care centers" and will maintain a strong educational component, noting that its core mission is student learning.
Ms. Johnston said CCAC, like other colleges, is under mounting financial pressure. "There is not a money tree out there," she said.
Bill Schackner: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1977 or on Twitter @BschacknerPG.