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Migrant ed nonprofit looks to expand to Medford

The Medford School District is excited about a potential new partnership in the new year.

Over the summer, the Oregon Child Development Coalition informed the school district that it was interested in expanding its preschool program to Medford, and property behind Jackson Elementary School was identified as a potential site for a new early learning center.

Currently, children of migrant and seasonal farmworkers and children from economically disadvantaged families are bused from around the county to access programs offered at OCDC’s Ashland location.

At a recent school board meeting, Jeanne Grazioli, the district’s director of elementary student achievement, said the partnership would not only provide more opportunities for preschool-age children in the area but also some additional classrooms for the school, which has maxed out the capacity of its building and modular space.

“They’ve proposed to build a building," Grazioli informed the board. "It would house about 20 classrooms … for migrant pre-K students at Jackson Elementary School. That would really help not only with our space issues but to build some stronger relationships with our community partners and our families.”

OCDC, she said, has hired an architect to develop a site plan and, pending board approval, hopes to have the building move-in ready within a year.

OCDC staff were not immediately available for comment.

“We’re very interested in the opportunity to have an early learning center in place at one of our high-poverty schools,” said board chairman Jeff Thomas.

“The understanding is that they would lease the property from us, even if it was for only $1, which would then open up the opportunity for the district to add more classrooms to the structure,” he said.

School officials also have reached out to the city of Medford to see about acquiring additional land for the project from the neighboring Jackson Park.

Brian Sjothun, director of Medford Parks and Recreation, said that while there is potential for some park land to be used, it is “incredibly preliminary,” and the project would need to include space for the Easter Seals program, which currently meets in the city’s Youth Activity Center in Jackson Park across from the Santo Community Center.

“They are trying to contain everything in the existing land, but if we have the opportunity to give up a little bit of property to have some more space for Easter Seals, day camps during the summer and some evening programming then that would be a win-win right there,” Sjothun said.

School district officials declined to comment more on the project until they knew more about OCDC's vision for the early learning center.

—Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or tthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.