Letter to Red Balloon Families and Staff

The University shares an update on plans to renovate the Red Balloon space and ensure access to quality, affordable child care.

May 12, 2023

Dear Red Balloon parents and staff,

We understand that our decision to move forward with renovations and revamping of the space that has historically housed Red Balloon has caused frustration, confusion, and disruption. As a working parent myself, I deeply regret that.

I am writing to you today to outline Columbia’s plans for the space, in the hope of providing clarity but also a measure of reassurance that the core mission of Red Balloon – providing quality, affordable child care – along with many of the center’s features, will emerge not just intact, but stronger, sturdier.

From the outset, let me state that some details are not yet worked out. But here are the key provisions of a plan the University has begun to implement:

  • After renovation, the current Red Balloon space will house a childcare center.
  • The center will serve members of the Columbia community as well as families who live in surrounding neighborhoods.
  • We are seeking a non-profit partner to run the center who will be committed to providing childcare at affordable prices, comparable to current rates.
  • The new entity will be required to maintain the same hours of operation as Red Balloon is now offering.
  • The teacher-student ratio will meet or exceed all applicable licensing requirements and accreditation standards.
  •  The new operating partner must be open to, and will be encouraged and supported in pursuing, certification for accepting ACS vouchers.

I wish I could be more specific about the duration of the renovation, but I can assure you it will be conducted as swiftly as possible. Also, we will not wait for the project to be completed to begin the process of identifying a new operator and agreeing to terms. The goal is to compress this transitional period to the shortest possible duration. We expect to have a better grasp of the project’s timeline by the end of June.

In the meantime, we are committed to working with all current Red Balloon parents, regardless of when your child first enrolled in the program, on transition planning. If you have not yet been in touch with a member of the Office of Work/Life, please reach out and let us know how we can help. This offer extends to Red Balloon staff as well as families. It is our goal to minimize disruption during this period.

I will be back in touch with updates as our work continues and more details are available.


Dennis A. Mitchell DDS, MPH
Executive Vice President for University Life
Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement
Professor of Dental Medicine at CUMC