WAKE FOREST, N.C (BP)–Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., will close its Ruby Reid Daycare Center permanently in August.
Paige Patterson, Southeastern’s president, said the purpose of the center, to provide care for children of seminary spouses who work to support their student families, “can be better fulfilled by other centers in the area.”
That fact seems to hold true as the director of Southeastern’s center, Tina Dekle, already has negotiated with Southeastern for assistance in opening a new center in Wake Forest.
Dekle has been an employee of Southeastern’s daycare center 12 years.
Liability was the largest factor in the decision, Patterson said. “We live in an ever-increasingly litigious society. Though we have never experienced any legal problems with the center, the truth is that no matter how careful we are, we run a daily risk over there. Everyone who runs a center like this knows that you are always one incident away from years in court. Coupled with the media’s bias against evangelicals, these are untenable risks for a seminary like ours.”
Patterson noted that Duke University recently made a similar move, reducing the size of its daycare program from 192 to 78, moving it out of downtown Durham and onto campus, and restricting its use only to Duke employees. “While our closing is receiving [regional] attention, we do not remember hearing much about Duke’s move,” Patterson noted. “It is not our students who are concerned, but our clients from the community. They are not the reason we had a daycare in the first place.”
Financial concerns were also instrumental in the center’s closing. The center, which has lost $332,000 over the last five years, currently cares for 75 children, of which only 16 come from seminary families.
“When we added it up, we determined that the seminary was spending $4,000 of Cooperative Program funds per year per student child to provide daycare,” Patterson said. “When we raised rates in order to try to break even, many of our students could find more affordable services elsewhere.”
The seminary’s position on family and children was another factor in its decision. “It is the firm belief of Southeastern that the best place for a child to be raised is in the home. This method is embraced by many of our student families,” Patterson said, “as they desire for the major influence in their child’s life to be that of a mother and a father especially in the child’s early years.
“Recent studies have shown that even with the best of care, children who spend time in these centers grow up to be more aggressive and to exhibit other behavioral difficulties. However,” Patterson continued, “our position on child rearing did not close the center. Had that been the case, we would have closed it nine years ago when I became president.”
The seminary started the daycare center 42 years ago. It was named after Ruby L. Reid, a lifelong resident of Wake Forest who had left her estate to the seminary. The proceeds from the sale of her estate contributed to the center’s start-up costs, and the daycare center was later named after Reid for her generosity.
In listing other reasons for the closing, Patterson said, “A very important matter for us is our need for space. We need space for classrooms and for new computer labs. Our accreditation dictates that we have adequate space, but beyond that, our students and faculty simply need more room. We have spent $20 million in new construction and renovation over the past six years, and we still need more space.
“Another factor in our decision is our Statement of Institutional Purpose,” Patterson said. “We are reviewing our whole institution very carefully right now to be sure we are in compliance with accepted standards of higher education accreditation. Through this review we realized that providing daycare is not really a part of our mission, especially when the vast majority of our clients are from the community and not students. We have no program for early childhood education, and the center serves no educational purpose.”
The seminary currently plans to continue to call the building which has housed the center the Reid Building in honor of the sacrificial gift made by Ruby Reid almost 50 years ago.