Child Development Center mold forces families to evacuate

Janine Ybanez/HIGHLANDER
Janine Ybanez/HIGHLANDER

Fourteen families will be forced to find alternative child care after a mold infestation was discovered in the baseboards of the UCR Child Development Center (CDC) Building A. The building’s closure has also displaced 28 student assistants, who will be forced to find alternative forms of employment until the building is reopened again.

According to the director of UCR’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety Russell Vernon, the mold in the CDC is called aspergillus and occurs in the environment wherever there is water. Although not known for causing illnesses, aspergillus may leave someone with a weakened immune system open for infection, said Vernon.

“Even if there is a low level risk, it is still best practice not to take any chances. The children and the staff and the parents have the right to expect a safe environment. That’s what we want to provide,” said Kris Lovekin, UCR’s director of media relations, who adds that at this time, no mold trouble is expected in the other CDC building.

The 14 affected families are seeking alternative means of child care in the area. However, the CDC is one of only three child care centers in Riverside with accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children. According to Lovekin, some families are choosing to simply rearrange their schedules rather than look at other child care centers.

Dana Kerube, a UCR student and parent, was initially told that there would be no more room for her child at the CDC. “I cried for like two hours and begged them to find a solution because I am a funded student and I couldn’t pay for another daycare, and … there are almost no vacancies in other daycares around the area. I wanted to drop the quarter because of that,” she said. The CDC sought to accommodate Kerube by having her son share a spot with another child so that some days Kerube has child care and some days she does not.

Kerube also expressed disapproval of the way the news of the mold was distributed. “At first (Executive Director of the CDC Renee Jacobs) sent an email on Sunday night that there will be no daycare tomorrow. Who does that on a Sunday night? What am I supposed to do if, say, I have a midterm the next day and I have no alternative (daycare) for (my child)?”

Meanwhile, 28 student assistants have been left to find other job opportunities late into the quarter. Fifth-year business economics student Abigail Menjivar worked in the kitchen, preparing meals for the children. After receiving the mold announcement on Oct. 21, Menjivar reports that she immediately went to SCOTjobs and applied for a job as an English tutor.

Nevertheless, Menjivar expressed regret at the loss of her CDC job. “I miss clocking in and working with my coworkers and just associating with other staff members from the CDC,” she said.

Information about the Holman Emergency Loan, a UCR loan for students under unanticipated financial duress, was made available for student assistants who were not able to find employment immediately. These students were also encouraged to apply to UCR Dining Services with “CDC” written on their applications so as to receive special consideration.

According to Lovekin, the mold clean-up is expected to take about six weeks and a tentative re-opening date is scheduled for Dec. 6. The families of the displaced children will be updated weekly.

Kerube is grateful that her child was able to stay at the CDC part-time. “If CDC wasn’t there, I would just drop the quarter. They are funding my son’s daycare, it’s close to the university and the teachers take good care of him so I know that when I leave him there, he gets the best care and I can be more focused in classes,” she said.

As for student assistants like Menjivar, she said, “I would be more than glad to return to the CDC as soon as they reopen. It’s the perfect distance from school and (supervisors are) always very understanding of when we have midterms.”

 

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