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West Medford Head Start relocates

After a long search, a west Medford Head Start site has found a new home at Jackson Elementary School.

Starting this fall, 38 preschoolers will receive services in two classrooms left vacant because of state budget cuts and slight enrollment declines, said Galen Anderson, business manager for the Medford School District.

The move is a relief for Southern Oregon Head Start staff, who were asked nearly a year ago to leave a site at 219 N. Oakdale Ave.

The Rogue Valley Family YMCA, which owns that space, plans to upgrade a kindergarten child-care program now housed in the basement of a church.

We're thrilled to be in a school; we're thrilled to be part of the Jackson school community, said Alan Berlin, local Head Start executive director.

Head Start provides free education, social services and meals to English- and Spanish-speaking kids ages — and 4.

Staff had been worried that the west Medford families who use the center wouldn't be able to walk their children to a convenient site, he said. The center was particularly necessary in that area because about half of the children who attend are Hispanic.

Now, the same families will just be going to one place, Berlin said.

In fact, hosting the program at the school at 630 W. Jackson St. likely will ease the transition as kids move from Head Start to public classes, he added. The Head Start program is often the first contact new immigrants have with local school officials, setting the stage for the child's entire educational career.

The new space will encompass one classroom for children and another for office space and parent use. Anderson said the school district had vacant space because cuts had left teaching positions unfilled and sent children into larger classes.

The new space is a good financial move for Head Start as well. Previously, the agency paid nearly &

36;750 a month in rent to the YMCA. Now, the agency will pay the school district &

36;200 a month rent, plus costs for custodial service, equipment and other fees.

It's good for everyone, said Anderson.

Reach reporter JoNel Aleccia at 776-4465, or e-mail