WINCHESTER — Umpqua Community College’s Board of Education unanimously approved a plan to transition the operation of the Ford Childhood Enrichment Center to a community partner, with the stipulation that the board would get to approve or decline the agreement with the outside source.
UCC will continue to operate the child care center through June 30 with hopes to reopen the center in September under new leadership.
UCC wants to find a community partner through a request for proposal process in which a mutually beneficial agreement would provide preferential enrollment for children of UCC students, allow use of the center for practicum students and maintain the Ford name.
“UCC’s child care center has a reputation for providing excellent child care,” UCC President Debra Thatcher wrote in her recommendation to the board. “At the same time, the center’s cost of operations has accelerated at a pace that far exceeds its revenues. As a result, the College has invested ever increasing amounts from its general fund in order to balance the center’s budget. The operations are unsustainable.”
During the public comment section of the meeting, Patricia Standley, who works at the child care center, said: “As an employee to have our jobs dangle is not very kind.”
She was one of three people who spoke prior to a discussion by the board on the topic.
Board member Betty Tamm asked to include a preference for placement of children of UCC students and encourage to hire the existing staff. “I’d like to see and encourage retention,” she said.
Even if the staff is hired to stay on at the child care center, it is likely they’ll see a drop in wages and benefits. Child care staff falls under a collective bargaining unit at UCC, and with a new employer they would likely see wages and benefits more typical of those working in the child care industry in Douglas County.
Those additions to the request for proposal, as well as a few others discussed by the board, are the reason the board voted for final approval.
Thatcher said she hopes the proposal will go out before the May board meeting. Thatcher said she is “highly confident” that a suitable community partner will take over operations of the child care center.
The administration worked with The Ford Family Foundation to analyze the center’s operations in the past two months.
In a summary, the consultant found requiring full-time monthly rates would be a more sustainable model, staying open until 5:30 p.m. would better serve the community, adding a classroom would be beneficial, fees can be increased, integrating the expertise and management of the center director with the academic program may result in more stable leadership, and increasing the amount of full-time staff would provide more stability.
In response to the analysis, Thatcher wrote that increasing the fee and changing the model to full-time monthly rates may price some students out of child care, extended hours have not worked for the center in the past, not all spots are getting filled as is and adding a classroom would require additional investment, integration between the center director and early child education was tried last year but the work load was so demanding “it disallowed adequate attention to both the academic program and the child care center” and hiring a full-time employee would increase the cost for the college and has not yielded greater recruitment in the director’s position.
“To me this indicates, no matter how we look at it, the problem still won’t be solvent. And not by a little bit, but by a lot. We’re out looking for ways to try to save the program in a sense for those who receive the services, but we’re not dispassionate to those who are providing it,” board member David Littlejohn said. “This is really a casualty of the environment. In the budgetary cycle, as you’ve just seen we’re lobbying for resources for community colleges in general. We’re just spread really thin and we look at where the money goes and at some point you have to make this really tough decision about where the resources get prioritized. And it’s a hard decision, but it’s a necessary decision.”
The Ford Childhood Enrichment Center opened in 1994 and cares for children ranging in ages from 6 months to 5 years old. It also serves as an educational space for college students. FCEC has 34 children enrolled. The decision to transfer operations would impact 20 students, eight employees and 12 community members.
DAYS CREEK — Virtual and augmented reality will likely become a part of the Days Creek classroom next year, but students have already started using the new technology.
“The idea is that students and teachers get on here and get an understanding of how to us it and put it into the curriculum,” Steve Woods said Tuesday while showing the new systems. Woods is the superintendent of Douglas County School District 15, executive director of Days Creek Charter School and principal at Days Creek High School.
On March 1, the school received three zSpace computers with educational materials, 3D glasses and styluses.
With the new technology, students can not only see the images on the screen, but they can move objects forward, turn them around and, depending on the program, take things apart or move them out of the way. As you move your head, you can look around an object and teachers or students can follow along with special follower glasses.
“With the real-world capacities, it makes it look really super real,” Woods said.
Students can also work together on projects on the zSpace computers and do assessments through the programs.
The systems cost between $5,000-$7,000, which does not cover additional programs and annual licensing. The systems were funded partially by Measure 98 funds, which passed in 2016 and required state funding for dropout prevention and career and college readiness programs.
“It’s a lot cheaper than buying a cadaver or frogs,” Woods said about the investment.
Although zSpace will not be a class on its own, Woods’ hope is to incorporate it in certain classes to enhance the learning experience for students.
“It’s a way to engage students and bring them a new way to learn the material,” Woods said. “We use these as building blocks. We don’t want to go over the top, we’re just getting our feet wet.”
Days Creek sophomore Macs Whetzel said his teacher went over the respiratory system in class and he used the anatomy course on zSpace to take another look. “It’s good additional information,” Whetzel said.
Days Creek sixth grader Keegan Stufflebeam also enjoyed looking through the anatomy program. “You take the heart and I like where you take it apart,” he said.
zSpace will be used mainly for science, math and technology, although other courses can be taught as well.
Educational programs came loaded on the computers, but others can be added, and have content teachers can access to see how it will work with the classroom teachings.
There are 21 classes, including Newton’s Park, where students create their own experiments and build simulations; Franklin’s Lab, where students learn about electricity concepts; and Curie’s Elements, where students can build elements by adding protons, neutrons and electrons.
Programs will guide students through the classes and they will have to answer questions to continue to the next step in learning.
“It’s a different way to instruct,” Woods said. “It gets (students) involved with the learning process.”
Foster children don't belong in current or former jails, and they should never be shipped to out-of-state institutions, according to the Douglas County Republican Central Committee, which voted last week in favor of a resolution against the treatment that many of Oregon's foster kids receive.
"Being a foster child in Oregon is not a crime and the care of foster children should never resemble the appearance of such," the resolution states.
“Why should a kid be treated like a criminal just because they're placed in a foster situation?” said Republican Party Chairwoman Valynn Currie in an interview this week about the decision. “They should be treated as a human being, with all the rights and privileges of someone rather than being treated like a criminal.”
Currie said foster children deserve to be treated with respect and kindness.
"It's just heartbreaking to see how these children are being abused, and not just by their parents but by the system," she said.
Currie adopted two young children about 30 years ago, and said it takes a lot of care but it's worth reaching out to kids from troubled homes and making sure they aren't just thrown away. She said the state needs to reach out to more adults who would be willing to take care of children in need.
“Maybe they need to have an outreach and let people know that this is a need, and it could be that the public's not aware of the need and how the people can take care of these kids in a better atmosphere than what they're being given right now. I can't imagine a worse atmosphere than being put in a facility that is a jail or a former jail,” she said.
The Republicans' resolution cites recent news reports from The Oregonian and OPB showing that hundreds of Oregon's foster care children are housed in jail facilities or similar institutions across the state, and more than 80 foster care children aged 9 to 18 are currently being housed at institutions outside of Oregon.
The Oregonian story cited a foster care housing program run by the Douglas County Juvenile Department as an example of housing foster kids in a former juvenile detention center, but Juvenile Department Director Aric Fromdahl said the paper's depiction of the program was inaccurate.
Fromdahl said the county was contracted by the state last year to conduct a pilot program for diverting foster kids that were then being held in hotels. After the pilot program ended, the county continued to run a similar program, he said, and is currently contracted to house 40 kids. Eight youth reside in the county's River Rock shelter care facility at any given time, he said, and the place where they're staying has never been either a detention center or a jail facility.
Another 16 beds are available for girls at the Creekside Shelter Facility, which was formerly the Roseburg Police Department building. There are 16 beds for boys at the Fowler House Shelter Facility across from the Douglas County Courthouse. A project to restore the old Pitchford Ranch into housing for foster kids is in the planning stages.
Fromdahl said he hopes to share information about the program with the Republicans, and said he believes if that happens they will see that the criticism the program has received isn't fair.
He said it's not realistic to suggest there will be enough foster families to care for the youth currently living in the county's facilities. While they're here, they're kept off the street, out of trouble and in the state, he said.
"The benefit is shared by all," Fromdahl said. "We are providing a safe, stable and nurturing environment for your youth in crisis."
While the Republican resolution passed last week doesn't directly name the Douglas County program, it does cite a particularly egregious example of what can happen to children sent to facilities outside of the state.
That involves the state's decision to send Oregon foster children to the Clarinda Academy, a former Iowa prison campus that has made headlines nationwide for allegedly subjecting Washington and California children placed there to abuse, neglect and even sexual assault.
Now that it has passed its resolution, Currie said the Republicans plan to build support for their cause. They will reach to the state legislators who represent this area, and also across the aisle to local Democrats to see if they will join in support of the resolution. Or, as the resolution puts it, "Protecting our children and saving them from hellacious conditions is not a partisan issue."