Parents fear a day-care center at MU isn’t safe after walkway fell

03/12/2014 10:42 AM

03/12/2014 10:42 AM

Christopher Engelhardt loves the staff at his 3-month-old’s day-care center but not enough to continue sending him after a walkway collapsed in the same University of Missouri housing complex last month.

Even though university officials promised Engelhardt and other parents that the building housing the Student Parent Center day care is structurally sound and safe, he and his wife pulled their child out to be cared for by a private sitter. And now Engelhardt, a post-doctorate research fellow, is leading a charge by parents who want the university to move the child-care center to a safer location. He has collected 500 signatures supporting a move.

“As a parent, if you take your child to a venue that has known structural issues, how safe can you ever feel?” said Engelhardt. “It is so scary.”

University officials know about the parents’ petition to relocate the child-care center and have met with parents on several occasions, said Christian Basi, university spokesman. He said “the entire future of University Village is being discussed,” including the child-care center. “We hope to have a decision very soon.”

In the meantime, parents who have no other child-care options are worried.

The concrete-and-metal walkway at one of the buildings in the 14-building, University Village apartment complex collapsed Feb. 22, killing a firefighter.

“Our first thought was, that could have been our 3-month-old son,” said Engelhardt, who had picked his son up from the child-care center just a day before the walkway fell. He never took him back.

University officials ordered an engineering inspection, which found that failed concrete and deteriorated metal caused the walkway to fall. All the walkways in the complex, including the one on building 602 where the child care is housed, were inspected.

The engineering report said of building 602 that “some areas of complete section loss of the steel and concrete deck were found and, unless remedial action is taken, a catastrophic collapse could be imminent.”

Wood shoring was installed immediately to support all 13 remaining walkways on buildings in the complex. But parents say that is not reassuring them the buildings all are safe.

The two-story brick University Village apartment complex, where married students and graduate students live, is nearly 70 years old. A 2008 university housing master plan suggested it be torn down.

“It is clear these buildings are reaching the end of their lifespan. They are falling apart,” said Naomi Clark, an English doctorate student who has two children attending the Student Parent Center. “I don’t think leaving the day care at University Village is safe, but I don’t want the university do away with the day care.”

She and other parents, who pay $31 to $47 a day, said the child care is convenient with flexible hours.

“It is a valuable resource for students,” said Kimberly Bodner, Engelhardt’s wife. “I do believe the university wants to find a solution for us. Our problem is that it is taking too long.”

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