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- 08-02-2004, 01:09 PM #1
Disney, YMCA team up to offer child care
As Walt Disney World prepared for the opening of two new child-care centers on its property, it polled employees to find out what they wanted most from the new, much-larger facilities.
The answer: flexible hours and affordable prices.
So Disney and its new child-care partner, the Central Florida YMCA, designed the centers so that the company's "cast members" -- whose schedules often change from week to week -- weren't locked into dropping off their children at the same time every day, or on the same days every week.
The two organizations set a daily fee that they estimate is less than what other child-care centers in Orlando would charge for similar services. And they developed Disney-subsidized payment plans so that some of the resort's lowest-paid workers would pay a fraction of the full cost.
Those innovations -- combined with the promise of state-of-the-art facilities owned and operated by one of the region's best-known nonprofit organizations -- generated a flood of interest from cast members.
With today's opening of the first center -- the second one opens in January -- more than 1,500 Disney employees have signed up for the service, and there already are waiting lists at both locations for certain time slots.
"What's difficult about our project is that our cast members have very unique schedules," said Adrienne Rowe, manager of work/life initiatives for Disney. "Our demand is very close to what we predicted it would be."
Disney chose the YMCA last year to build and operate its new day-care centers. In doing so it passed over Kindercare Learning Centers, the for-profit corporation based in Portland, Ore., that has run two smaller centers for Disney employees for more than a decade.
The two new centers, with about 50,000 square feet combined and the ability to hold 650 children at any given time, are more than double the size and capacity of the Kindercare buildings. Both YMCA centers will be open seven days a week, 365 days a year, from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. to accommodate the shifting schedules of Disney employees.
It's the Central Florida YMCA's first venture into full-time, stand-alone child-care facilities, and also its first child-care partnership with a for-profit corporation.
YMCAs in other states have established similar partnerships, but the Central Florida Y's venture with Disney World -- thought to be the nation's largest single-site employer, with more than 50,000 workers -- is the largest of any YMCA in the nation.
The local Y is spending roughly $10 million to build the two centers, which are both on Disney property. Disney plans to contribute $4.5 million over the next five years for operating expenses at the centers, which will be managed by YMCA employees.
At 22,000 square feet, the center opening today can hold a maximum of 302 children at any given time. It is located on Sherberth Road, near Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park.
The second center is slightly larger, with a maximum capacity of 348 children. The 25,000-square-foot building is at the intersection of Vista Boulevard and Bonnet Creek Drive, near Disney's Port Orleans Resort.
Disney's employees are given priority at the centers, though YMCA and Disney officials say a very limited number of slots will be available to the general public. But even those slots will probably go to the children of contractors working on Disney property, they said.
The Kindercare facilities will remain open until the second YMCA center opens early next year.
One recent morning, YMCA teachers and aides were busily opening boxes and organizing "classrooms" in preparation for the opening of the first center, while landscapers and painters put the finishing touches on the building. Noticeably absent was any trace of Disney -- no Mickey Mouse murals, Winnie the Pooh stuffed animals or Disney Princess toys. And that's not likely to change much, Disney's Rowe said.
"This is an educational facility, but it's not a theme park," Rowe said. "We really wanted it to be a place that kids could call home. So I think you'll see some Disney here, but it won't be the over-the-top sensory thing like in theme parks."
The building resembles a small school, with three wings -- one for infants up to 2 years of age, another for 3- and 4-year-olds, and still another for ages 5 and up.
The wings consist of several two-room suites, separated by work or play stations with computers, study materials or toys.
The staff consists of about 60 employees, including teachers, nutritionists and janitors. Some of the teachers are state-certified educators, while others have received child-care training.
"We'll be full with children the day we open," said Sarah Sprinkle, the YMCA's vice president of child development.
There is no formal educational component at the centers, but the facilities are set up to stimulate learning, Sprinkle said. As such, there are no television sets for children to watch, she said.
Art, music and language will be incorporated into daily programs, and computers will be available to older children, Sprinkle said. The centers also will emphasize fitness, she said. The Sherberth Road facility, for example, has several outdoor playgrounds, some with elaborate landscaping and slides built into small hillsides.
Sprinkle said the YMCA's agreement with Disney calls for the centers to charge Disney employees $2 less than what the two organizations agreed would be the going rate for the same services -- such as extended hours and flexible schedules -- if they were offered by other child-care facilities in the area. Disney and the YMCA settled on $33 a day for those services for infants, so the new centers will charge $31 a day instead.
Disney is subsidizing child care for its neediest families, based on a sliding income scale that ranges up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level. So a family of four with a household income of less than $30,000, for example, would pay less than $10 a day for an infant, Disney's Rowe said.
She said the YMCA's experience with children at 23 Central Florida locations -- mostly after-school programs and temporary-care rooms for parents using YMCA facilities or programs -- played a major role in Disney's decision to contract with the organization.
"Child care is a tricky business where there are very slim margins, which is why nonprofits can provide very good quality," Rowe said. "They [YMCA] have a stake in the community, and a specific interest in Central Florida families."
By Greg Groeller | Orlando Sentinel Staff Writer
- 08-02-2004, 01:15 PM #2
This is wonderful news for the folks that need to have affordable child care while they are working. The Kindercare facilities are rather small and obviously couldn't handle the demand. I'm just hoping that when the 2nd new facility opens in January, that it will be enough as the demand seems pretty high for slots.
The lower price and availability of a sliding fee scale will surely be welcome additions to the Disney benefits that are available to CMs.
I was just about to ask what that new building was going up in the AK backstage are, then I saw another over in the backstage area by POR. Thanks for the article DP
- 08-03-2004, 02:33 AM #4
BTW...I see that you passed to 2k mark... Congratulations
- 08-03-2004, 03:13 AM #5
- Join Date
- May 2002
- 8 miles from DLR!
- Favorite Park
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This is fantastic news! Day Care is such a heavy burden on families today!
I am glad to see that they are offering a sliding scale, oft times it takes almost a whole paycheck just to cover the Day Care expenses!
Way to go Disney!!!
I hope other companies see this and use this as an example and set up Day Care for their employees nation wide. Employers would see an increase in productivity and lower absentee rates almost immediately!
~ MickeysGirl ºoº
~ Gotta Love the Mouse! ºoº
- 08-05-2004, 01:45 PM #6
- Join Date
- Aug 2003
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- da world
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- when its hot-people mover
for other corporations doing this, it's highly unlikely due to the fact that the people making these decisions are people in the higher income bracket and daycare isn't a worry to them because they can afford it.
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