Southern Oregon University’s Schneider Children’s Center will reopen as partners with Head Start Sept. 15, providing early childhood care for the kids of SOU students and staff, as well as the community. It was shut down in June because of a funding shortfall.

It will reopen with the Oregon Child Development Coalition, using the early Head Start program. An as-yet-undetermined number of slots will be available to children who qualified by age and income for Head Start.

OCDC is one of the nation’s largest providers of Migrant and Seasonal Head Start, Early Head Start, Pre-Kindergarten programs and the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership model, serving more than 4,000 low-income Oregon families, according to a statement from SOU.

The partnership was enabled by a $4 million federal grant for OCDC schools in 12 Oregon counties, said Brian Schmedinghoff, OCDC director of resource development.

The SOU center had been supported by student fees, noted SOU spokesman Ryan Brown. Last year, the Associated Students switched it to an individual stipend that the student could use with any child care provider, instead of having the funding go to the center. That, said Brown, resulted in reduced revenues and the center's closure by SOU.

“The staff, faculty and community then rallied and started looking for options and solutions,” he said. “The option was a partnership with OCDC.”

The stipend is still available for students.

“It’s a new program model,” Schmedinghoff said. “We’ve been providing Early Head Start for infants and toddlers, 6 weeks of age to 3 years, helping with nutrition, early education and support of families. The feds said they want to bring Early Head Start quality to early childhood providers, to help bring in training of the kind we bring to our teachers.”

The collaboration will require training and staffing ratios to meet Head Start standards, but Brown said little adjustment will be needed, as the long-existing center already meets or exceeds those standards.

SOU’s center, on Wightman Avenue, provides affordable child care, with priority for students, then staff, then community members. Some students' children may also qualify for Head Start, making it even more affordable.

The center will provide full-day care, Monday through Friday, 48 weeks a year, using Head Start teacher-student ratios of no more than four children per teacher and maximum group size of eight for infants and toddlers. The preschooler ratio is 10 to 1.

For more information, see www.souchildcare.com. To enroll children at Schneider Children’s Center, click on “Enroll Now.”

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.