WESTMINSTER — Between her classes at Carroll Community College, Darcel Harris of Westminster can peek in on her daughter at the day care center in the college's main building to say hello or check on her behavior.
"I find her very content and happy to go to 'Mommy School' -- that's what she calls it," Harris said of her 2-year-old, Martha Reed Harris II.
But the one-room center has a waiting list at the beginning of every semester. To allow more students, instructors and others to use the center, the college is applying for a $300,000 federal grant for anew building that would more than double the center's capacity.
"The whole college has grown so rapidly in the last couple of years," said Karen Armiger, coordinator of the child care center. "The more students, the more need for child care. We deal with a lot of single mothers, a lot of mothers returning to the work force."
A public hearing on the grant will be at 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. Monday at the college. For one half-hour before each of those hearings, county and college officials will answer questions about the grant request.
At the public hearing, people may comment on why the college and county should or should not get the grant. The state will take those comments into consideration.
The county is applying for the grant on behalf of the college. The money is made available through the federal Community Development Block Grant program, administered by the state.
Although 57 children are now enrolled, the one-room center has space for only 20 at any given time. Many children are there for only a few hours at a time, while their parents are in class.
If CCC gets the grant, it would build a 4,000-square-foot building on the campus thatwould have room for 52 children at any given time, or total enrollment of 110, said Rosemary Straub, coordinator for community relations and development. The added space and children would allow the collegeto use the center to train students taking non-credit courses in early childhood education, Straub said.
Because the grant requires a local contribution, Straub said, the college would put up $157,000 from its capital budget. The money is available because bids to begin construction on the multipurpose building were lower than expected, she said.
The county would also donate about $43,000 in land and in-kind services such as grading.
Operating costs for the center would continue to be paid by the fees charged to those whose children attend. Fees are $2.10 an hour for students and $2.60 for faculty.
Priority is given to students, then instructors, then finally to the general public if there are slots available, Armiger said. Some children have been coming since before there was a waiting list for students, and the center has allowed those families to continue, she said.
When the college and day care center were on South Center Street, they had trouble getting enough children enrolled from students and instructors, Armiger said. College enrollment has grown from 2,034 in the fall of 1989 to 2,731 in the fall of 1991, Straub said.
For Harris, having her daughter nearby gives her peace of mind to pursue a degree in education, she said.
Martha used to cry at her previous day care center, but she seems to like the one at CCC. And if there areproblems, Harris said, it's easy for her to stop in to figure them out.
"This is the best thing that ever happened to me," she said.