07/04/04 — WCC day care features Web cam

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WCC day care features Web cam

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 4, 2004 7:13 AM

Tammy Peele remembers the first time she saw her 14-month-old child at a table coloring a picture. And she wasn't even in the same room.

In fact, she was across town at the time.

Tammy works with the Wayne County Tax Department. Her daughter, Allison, spends her days at the Wayne Community College Day Care Center, which offers families a way to monitor their children via computer.

The Web cam feature is more than just a novel idea; it provides parents with an important benefit-- peace of mind.

"I'm there, just not on a personal level," Mrs. Peele says. "I know when she's actually eating lunch, taking a nap and can see all the day-to-day activities."

She said she is able to access her daughter's classroom by a computer link and typically checks in once an hour. Husband Brian does not get to monitor it as often at his job but nevertheless finds it rewarding when he does.

"He is not home in the evening all the time, so he gets to see what she's doing and learning all day long," she said.

"The first time we saw her sitting down at a table coloring, we had not seen that at home. We missed some of those firsts, but we could see it this way."

Anna Overcash works at Southeastern Medical Oncology, a stone's throw from the center. Her son Christopher, now 6, was in the day-care program for four years and now daughter Kayla, 3, is enrolled.

"I love it," Mrs. Overcash says. "It's a wonderful thing to be able to see Kayla," she said. "When I'm sitting here and want to see what she's doing, I bring it up on the computer.

"It's just wonderful to be able to watch her when I can't be with her."

She said she has confidence in the teachers and felt they prepared her son well for kindergarten. She said she had also been reassured by her son's desire to be there every day.

Two-year-old Taylor White has also enjoyed being at the center. It became evident when she recently visited her grandparents in Greensboro while her mother attended a conference.

Mother Michelle Hines, employed in the continuing education department at the college, said her daughter missed being at the center so much that the only thing that would quiet her was for them to hook up their computer.

"My mother called and said Taylor really missed her friends at school and her teacher," Ms. Hines said. "So I told them how to access it on the computer and my father pulled up the Web site.

"The class was doing an activity, and she was letting him know what they were doing and named off the children."

Ms. Hines said her parents don't get to see their granddaughter too much, and since that visit, they have visited the Web site frequently to keep tabs on her.

"They'll call and say, 'I saw Taylor today; she was over in the paint area,'" she said.

Ms. Hines said it has been great having her child nearby on campus, especially after having previously driven 30 miles a day to a caregiver. Watching her on the computer has just been a bonus.

"When she started, it really helped calm my nerves," she said. "I viewed it more for the first two weeks. Now it's probably once a day."

Dr. Kay Albertson, a vice president at the college, basks in such stories.

"We were excited about doing it, because it's not something that a lot of child-care centers have at this time," she said.

She said the idea is a perk for the parent, and she is especially pleased that Wayne Community offers it at no cost to them.

"There are centers throughout the country that actually charge the parent to have a PIN number," she said.

She said the security system allows one to use a password to see "in real time" what's going on in the child's classroom. The equipment, software and four cameras were purchased through two grants received by the college.

Center Director Carolyn Tyson said the day-care program not only benefits families, but allows her to monitor activities from her office. It is also used as a teaching tool in the college's child-development program.

The day-care program started in a trailer provided at Wayne Memorial Hospital in 1989, serving children 2 to 5 years old. Bond money led to the current location on the college campus, which officially opened one year ago this month.

It is a three-star center, according to the state's standards, with plans to achieve the highest level, a five-star rating, in the fall. Child-care scholarships are also available for candidates who qualify, Dr. Albertson said.

The thing she is most proud of, she says, occurred during the licensing process.

"They came in and did statewide inventories," she said. "The infant room got the highest rating ever in Wayne County."

Care for infants and toddlers presents the biggest demand, Dr. Albertson said. Because of word of mouth, there is a waiting list to enroll, often for babies who haven't even been born yet.

"We have a lot of people that fill out applications and list the age of the child as 'unborn,'" adds Ms. Tyson.

Dr. Albertson said the center could fill all four classrooms to capacity if it only served those 6 weeks old to 2 years old.

"That's where the big need is," she said.

But the ratio of teachers required to work with that age group, one adult for four children, would be cost-prohibitive at this point, Dr. Albertson said. There is also a need to provide care for older children to support the college's early childhood development curriculum.