Child Care Directors Guide to On-Site Construction

Maybe you can't build an entire new center and instead, your program has opted to repair, renovate or enlarge your existing center. This article looks at what a child care director should plan for when the construction takes place in or near the childcare center.

Prior to Construction

Your leadership and personal involvement are crucial to a successful construction project, you must insist on being kept "in the loop" from the early planning stages of the project until the day the contractor leaves the site. There will be much to understand so it is best to ask for help from your parents, board members, and colleagues to form a small committee to assist you in the decisions you are about to undertake.

Talk to other directors and staff from other centers who have completed construction projects similar to the one being planned for your center. Ask what they have learned, what they would do differently and what they would avoid. Before the project goes out to bid, ask the architect to brief you on the construction contract's provisions regarding site security, storage, staging, fencing, safety, lighting, construction work hours, dust and noise requirements, air quality, worker identification, traffic patterns, truck deliveries, bus routines and similar matters that can have a profound impact on the center operations.

During Construction

Once construction begins you will have to communicate continually with your committee, the construction staff, the contractor, parents and the project architect. Be sure to attend weekly construction team meetings and discuss with the contractor's site superintendent every morning to be informed of daily changes to the plan. Work closely with the custodial and cleaning staff to insure that the areas being worked on have proper maintenance and cleaning.

Protect both children and property during the construction process. During construction, workers may have access to areas that contain personal property and/or valuable equipment. Experienced tradesmen are accustomed to having access to otherwise secure areas and almost always can be trusted: there are, however, many others who may be on the site only temporarily and have little accountability, so keep things as secure and well protected as possible.

Construction can be fascinating to children, and as such, can be an attractive hazard that is difficult for children to resist. Plan and act accordingly.

Anticipate false fire alarms and deter vandalism. Watch the air quality, which can change daily depending on what chemicals are being used in the construction or renovation of the building. Insist on products that are environmentally and kid-friendly that emit a low amount of volatile organic compounds.

You might need to move children around the building as construction is completed so it is necessary to have a logistics plan. Creating makeshift classrooms or moving some activities off site might be necessary during this time. Be sure that you have the necessary approvals for the temporary arrangement from licensing, public health and fire officials.

After Construction

When the project is completed, be sure to train the maintenance staff, custodial staff and teachers on how to properly use, clean and operate new or different spaces. You will be working with the project architect to create what is called "the punch list" of items (such as touch up painting, adjusting equipment and making repairs) that still have to be completed by the contractor. Be sure to conduct a post occupancy evaluation of the building so that teachers, parents and custodial staff can determine what successes to repeat on the next project and which mistakes to avoid in future construction projects.