The pending closure of a University of Minnesota day-care center was the subject of a heated meeting Thursday between parents and a university administrator.

Jean Quam, dean of the College of Education and Human Development, tried to answer questions about the closing of the Child Development Center, announced this week, but was mostly met with frustration. The university sent an e-mail to parents Monday explaining that the day-care center would close in 18 months to allow for the expansion of the Shirley G. Moore Lab School.

"This is not simply about closing a child-care center," Quam said to the more than 100 people who met at the day-care center's building Thursday. "Our mission is to have the best possible research institute we can."

The day-care center serves about 140 kids ages 3 months to 5½ years, many of them the children of university faculty and graduate students. The lab school, which is used for research and training, operates nine months of the year.

But parents at the meeting weren't satisfied with Quam's answer. They repeatedly asked: Why can't the day-care center be incorporated into the school?

"It's not out of the realm of possibility," Quam said. "But I also don't want to give people false hope."

The idea to expand the lab school has been in discussion for more than eight years, said Quam, but it was finalized Friday when the Board of Regents was notified of the decision. The decision had also been approved by University President Eric Kaler and Karen Hanson, the provost and executive vice president.

Parents said a lot of their frustration stemmed from a lack of communication. The e-mail Monday was the first time that they were informed that closing the center was even under consideration, several said.

Jen Scott's husband is a researcher at the U, and their 4-year-old son attends the center. She said the announcement came as a shock.

"It's not just a day care," she said, echoing other parents' praise for the center that focuses on child development. "They've taught us how to be parents."

Quam plans to meet with day-care center staff Monday to discuss the next steps.

Jeyca Maldonado-Medina is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.