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YMCA will operate kindergarten

Rogue Valley Family YMCA in Medford plans to open a private kindergarten this fall.

The kindergarten grew out of the YMCA's other preschool and child-care programs, said Kris Treadway, the YMCA's child development director.

We wanted to give parents another choice, she said.

Families who have children in the YMCA's programs supported adding another element and an after-school program for kindergartners was faltering, said Lisa Rupert, a YMCA campaign director.

The YMCA has operated the after-kindergarten program for several years, but when about half of Medford's schools started providing all-day kindergarten classes this year, enrollment in the Y program dropped by half, Rupert said.

— Dwindling enrollment and the nonprofit's desire to stop transporting kids from schools to the center in vans prompted officials to rethink what they offered for kindergartners, she said.

That suited parent Sally Buck, who wanted her oldest son, Mason Hageman, 6, who will start kindergarten in the fall, to continue as long as possible at the YMCA where he has thrived since age 3.

I feel strongly about the program at the Y, said Buck, whose three children have all spent time there. I didn't want to give it up if I didn't have to.

Buck helped with focus groups and feasibility studies to see if parents whose children were in the YMCA's preschool program would support a kindergarten, and they did.

The kindergarten will accept 30 students and about half the slots already are filled, Treadway said.

Transition is tough for kids, but this will be a beautiful transition, she said. Lots from the preschool will move over because they have a good bond.

Treadway, who has a degree in elementary education and is eager to return to the classroom, will teach the class with Karen Ryan, who has overseen the after-kindergarten program for four years. An assistant will help the two teachers.

The kindergarten at 219 Oakdale Ave. will have a computer lab, art center, book nook, classroom and indoor and outdoor play areas. Rupert said the YMCA plans to spend about &

36;5,000 for new paint, furniture and teaching materials to get the kindergarten running.

Students also will use all the YMCA facilities including the pool, gym and rock-climbing wall. They will learn basic skills for reading, math and science, and will study Spanish and German.

Classes will run from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday for &

36;370 a month. An after-school program will offer child care until 6 p.m. for an additional fee.

YMCA's program will meet state 'foundations' The state doesn't mandate kindergarten attendance nor does it set concrete curriculum standards for that grade.

But it does have guidelines called foundations to put kindergartners on track to meet academic standards in grade school, and the YMCA program will meet those, teacher and child development director Kris Treadway said.

The Oregon Department of Education doesn't oversee, license or accredit private schools, although they can register to be included on a state-maintained list, state officials said.

The YMCA kindergarten will be certified through a state program that recognizes child-care centers that meet state standards. Organizers plan to seek accreditation from a private school association next year.

From left, Lauren Orndoff, Jovanna Salvador and Erica Freund, all 5, play at the YMCA playground Tuesday in Medford. The YMCA?s child-care program will add a kindergarten this fall. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Mail Tribune Bob Pennell