New Evanston day care to cater to Northwestern faculty

Susan Du

Bright Horizons Family Solutions, which will open a child care center one block south of Northwestern’s Evanston campus this fall, is renovating its newly acquired space, including the construction of a rooftop play place.

The center, which will be located at 1629 Orrington Ave., will serve more than 300 children, at least 60 of whom may be the children of University employees and students.

“Construction is going very well, and we are still on track for a fall opening,” wrote Bright Horizons spokeswoman Bridget Perry in an email to The Daily on Monday. “We have started to receive inquiries from families about the center.”

Perry said Bright Horizons will hold information sessions this spring to inform families about the center’s programs, services and curriculum. The day care service will offer infant and toddler care as well as priority access for NU affiliates.

Lori Anne Henderson, NU director of work and life resources, said in a February news release that Bright Horizons’ opening represents greater child care convenience for NU parents.

“We are very pleased that the expanded options will enable more faculty, staff and students to take advantage of the University’s child care programs,” Henderson said in the news release.

Before receiving the city council’s approval to open in Evanston, Bright Horizons was subject to criticism from competing day care facilities because of the large scope of its planned center. Sheryl Katz, executive director of Evanston Day Nursery Association, said she is primarily concerned about the quality of care individual children will receive through large day care enterprises such as Bright Horizons.

“Comfort of children is associated with the actual number of children in the space, and not just the relationship between the number of children and the number of teachers,” Katz said. “That said, I think any organization that is taking care of children clearly will need to make the best choices they can in how they handle rivals and partners so the experience of the children is at the highest level possible.”

Evanston Day Nursery is smaller than Bright Horizons, hosting 46 children. It is a nonprofit business with a 100-year history in Evanston situated in a renovated Victorian home.

“I think you can’t separate out quality and business when you’re a not-for-profit,” Katz said. “I think parents who want a small, nurturing, homelike atmosphere, yet with all the quality and expertise that comes with educators being involved with their children – that’s what we provide. It’s very different from a for-profit, corporate environment, but parents will make their choices.”

Katz added there is a documented need for infant and toddler care, which she hopes Bright Horizons will fulfill by “providing care to children that reflects the larger Evanston community.”

Not all local day care centers agree that a high density of children is necessarily a bad thing. Sonja Coster, vice president and branch executive director at McGaw YMCA, said she is not concerned about the competition Bright Horizons poses because there’s enough business to go around, particularly in infant care.

“I definitely feel that they will help to fill the need, because we have 150 children on our waiting list and we just simply cannot help everybody,” Coster said.

The YMCA, 1000 Grove St., is similar in size to Bright Horizons, currently serving over 300 clients, including many NU employees. Coster said contrary to criticism of large day care programs, the YMCA strives to be a family-oriented, community-building organization. She added that just because Bright Horizons is a for-profit company, unlike the YMCA, it doesn’t mean it will neglect quality of care.

“I always say, ‘Bring on the competition,'” Coster said. “We value the great standing relationship of 12 years with Northwestern, and we want to continue to be a preferred provider for Northwestern by making sure our families are satisfied and happy with the service we provide.”

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