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School's kindergarten academy might close

With too few parents able to pay tuition costs, Jackson Elementary School's Kindergarten Enrichment Academy is in danger of shutting down before the end of the month.

Started in October as a way to offer full-day kindergarten to students, parents were asked to pay $25 a week for their child to attend an optional afternoon program created by Kids Unlimited.

"We got people to sign up, even though they knew they couldn't afford it," said Principal Kelly Soter.

The program was formed after full-day kindergarten was axed by budget cuts at seven Medford schools this year. A 2015 state mandate will require schools to bring back full-day kindergarten, but until then schools are on their own.

Kids Unlimited advertised the program and said limited scholarships would be available for children at the Title I school, which has many students from low-income families.

"We knew that we were taking a chance," said Soter.

Of the 13 kindergartners who were signed up for the program, the families of roughly half said they weren't able to pay the $25 weekly tuition, said Carrie Nelson, Kids Unlimited's Jackson Elementary School site manager.

Now, faced with losing the program entirely, Jackson parents have banded together and organized a tamale fundraiser to help with costs.

"They're making good faith and trying," said Nelson. "But we're still short."

Nelson said Kids Unlimited is working with the school to develop fundraising campaigns.

"We're trying to find ways to raise funds in an appropriate way," said Nelson, who added that Kids Unlimited always is looking for grants and donations to support such programs.

Tamales can be purchased at the cost of $12 for a half-dozen, or $20 per dozen. Orders will be taken through Dec. 16, and will be ready to pick up on Jan. 7.

Tamales can be ordered in person at Kids Unlimited, 821 North Riverside, Medford, or by calling 541-774-3900.

While Nelson was happy that the parents are trying to raise funds, she acknowledged that the tamale sale alone would not be enough to save the program.

"Will it cover the expenses — no," said Nelson. "But it might be enough to keep it afloat a little longer."

Reach reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or tristow@mailtribune.com.