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Medford considers making room for nursery

The Family Nurturing Center plans to give up two classrooms at Kids Unlimited Academy in Medford later this year and hopes to relocate its relief nursery from there to a modular building at the Santo Community Center.

The nonprofit child-abuse prevention and early intervention program is in the initial stages of negotiating a lease agreement with the city of Medford for property behind the Santo Community Center near the intersection of McAndrews Road and Columbus Avenue.

Of the 25 relief nurseries statewide, the FNC operates three: one at its headquarters on Oakdale Avenue, one in Grants Pass and one at Kids Unlimited Academy.

However, this summer, the FNC must vacate its two classrooms at Kids Unlimited to make room for the public charter school’s fifth-grade program, which starts this fall.

The Kids Unlimited afterschool and charter school boards discussed a variety of options to keep the FNC on campus, but in the end, the Medford Parks and Recreation Department seemed to offer the center the most economical solution, said Kids Unlimited Executive Director Tom Cole.

The FNC has purchased and is in the process of refurbishing a modular and, pending city approval, would park it next to the city's Discovery Preschool at the Santo, Executive Director Sher Barber said.

The modular would accommodate two classrooms, a small kitchen, and a reception and office area.

According to the proposed 25-year lease, the center would rent the property from the city for just $1 a year and be allowed to landscape the area and install security lighting, fencing, signage and play structures.

“We thought about building a building from scratch, but it wouldn't be up by next June,” Barber said.

“And this is a neighborhood that we want to be in,” she said.

The Parks and Recreation Commission will hold a study session at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Carnegie Building, 413 W. Main St., to discuss the proposed lease.

“The center is in need a location, and we have some property at the Santo so we’re hoping we can help them,” Medford Parks and Recreation Director Brian Sjothun said.

“It’s a great community nonprofit, and they would be investing money in putting a modular building in and doing improvements to the site. They’d also be paying for their own electricity and for all the (land-use) permits,” he said.

The FNC’s relief nurseries cater to children from at-risk families, such as those dealing with mental health or drug and alcohol problems. The nurseries are staffed by preschool teachers with master’s degrees and training in therapeutic interventions, Barber said.

“It’s different from a Head Start classroom in that we have eight kids in a class with three teachers, so it's a better ratio,” she said.

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