Kid Time! learning hub faces uncertain future

Despite skyrocketing popularity, the museum and early childhood education center could be forced to close in 2014

Popular children's museum and learning center Kid Time! Discovery Experience needs to raise $100,000 by March 2014 or risk closing its doors, facility officials said.

The center needs the funding because of increased demand on its preschool early learning programs, increased costs, and a dip in grants and donations. Of that $100,000, $25,000 needs to be raised by Jan. 15, Kid Time! officials said.

"It's very much growing pains for us," director Sunny Spicer said. "We might get 15, 20 percent of the amount we previously requested. Which we appreciate — it just doesn't quite get us to where our goal is."

The funds received will be used on operations costs and go toward scholarship programs for the 1,200 or so families that utilize the center's early-learning and school-readiness programs at some point during the year.

"That's the gap that we're primarily filling: people who don't have access to preschool programs," Spicer said.

Facility officials say access to these types of early-learning programs is critical to students being successful down the road.

"The economic cost of what it is not to have a child prepared for school is huge," said Kid Time! board member Andy Batzer. "We need to be aware of this. We are paying for this."

The center opened in 2005 at a rent-free facility on Ross Lane. In 2011, it relocated to its 106 N. Central Ave. address, in the same building as the Southern Oregon Historical Society, in downtown Medford. About 10 full- and part-time staff members, along with several volunteers who help with maintenance and construction, help keep it afloat.

About 55,000 visitors come through the doors annually, which includes attendees who utilize its recreational resources. That number is expected to continue climbing.

"Next year, I wouldn't be surprised if we grew up to 75,000 visitors a year," Spicer said.

The nonprofit organization receives about 60 percent of its funding through admission and membership fees. The remaining 40 percent historically has come from grants and donations. But an increasingly competitive landscape for grants and a drop in how much funding foundations can afford to give has meant less money for organizations receiving the funding. The facility receives no government funding.

"The competition for these dollars is just a lot more," Batzer said. "They're being stretched themselves for all the needs, and they're doing the best they can."

Facility officials are confident they can be 100-percent self-sustaining going forward if adequate funding is secured by the March deadline. For more information on donating, visit www.kid-time.org or call 541-772-9922.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at rpfeil@mailtribune.com.


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