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‘We need help finding a home’

Eddie Phelps, 2, smells a flower in the garden at Children’s World Montessori Preschool and Kindergarten in Ashland. Ashland Tidings file photo
Children’s World leaving Lincoln School facility

The Ashland School District notified Children’s World Montessori March 19 that the school must relocate out of the Lincoln School facility.

Children’s World Director Michelle Keller said the notice came as a shock, after having already completed negotiations for a renewed year lease.

Ashland School District Superintendent Samuel Bogdanove said the decision to not renew the Children’s World rental agreement centered around short- and long-term student needs at the facility, including a need for overflow space during construction at Ashland Middle School, John Muir Outdoor School, Helman Elementary School, Walker Elementary School and Ashland High School.

“We anticipate a need for high school and other programs that serve Ashland students at that site once the bond is complete,” Bogdanove said in an email. “Our alternative would be portables, which are not good options for more permanent classrooms.”

Bogdanove said the district is working with Children’s World to help transition into a permanent space.

Keller said the school will seek financial assistance to purchase a permanent home for the long term after facing the second relocation in two years. In the meantime, she’s “desperately” looking for a suitable temporary space.

The ideal location would have 3,600-4,000 square feet of indoor space and at least the same outside, she said.

Children’s World serves nearly 50 families in preschool and toddler programs — about half of pre-pandemic capacity, Keller said.

“Unfortunately, the district gave us the notice after telling us that they were going to renew our lease for another year, so I had started the registration process for next year,” Keller said. “That makes this particularly challenging.”

Waitlisted families and new families interested in Children’s World programs are on hold for now, she said. Calls come in everyday from locals searching for child care.

“There’s just not enough child care in Ashland,” she continued. “We provide a service that serves people well, but we can’t do it if we don’t have a space.”

Keller said a final date to vacate the facility has yet to be clarified — she speculated the end of June.

Families have come forward frustrated and distressed about the situation, including those with students in or on track to enter the Ashland school system, presenting a challenging “conflict of needs” for families with multiple children at various stages of schooling, she said.

The possibility of losing Children’s World affects some parents’ ability to live and work in Ashland, Keller said.

The working relationship between ASD and Children’s World has been positive, Keller said, adding that the most prominent challenge with the recent situation was short notice. Significant time and organization is required to move a business with such specific needs, she said.

Keller said she supports the district and remains grateful for its assistance helping keep the Children’s World doors open throughout the pandemic, “we just wish there was a different way to work it out.”

“We just need help right now. We need help finding a home,” Keller said.

Contact Ashland Tidings reporter Allayana Darrow at adarrow@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497 and follow her on Twitter @AllayanaD.