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Cobb School in Roseburg on Thursday.

Students who attended Cobb School last year will be attending new schools this fall.

Cobb Children’s Learning Center’s Board of Directors decided to close the school and instead renew a focus on child care.

“We communicated to families in early July about our decision and we won’t be opening in September,” the school’s Board Chair Jeff Kowalczyk said.

Cobb School co-founders Barb Beatty and Sister Jeanita Richter still serve on the board and agreed with the decision.

“There are so many private schools and there are so many schools on computers nowadays that we feel children can be provided in this county with a good education, but child care is a whole different situation,” Richter said. “Barb and I discussed it. I met with Jessica (Gaul) and we decided that this would be the best move.”

Jessica Gaul will be the new executive director for Cobb Children’s Learning Center. Gaul began her career in early childhood education and has worked as a teacher, director and executive director for various child care facilities and has experience in developing centers from the ground up.

Cobb School struggled to find a balance between enrollment and staffing, with a strong demand for both in the lower grades but a fluctuating enrollment in the higher grades.

“What we see is: There are not enough families that use our school remaining in Roseburg all the way through grade eight,” Kowalczyk said. “The most common reason given to us is that the family is relocating out of the area for professional opportunities. The variability in the upper grades impacts our ability to operate sustainably and adds to the difficulty in hiring the high-quality teachers we need.”

Cobb School, which moved into the building next to the catholic church on Stanton Street in 2016, offered kindergarten through eighth grade classes. The school had between 70 and 80 students enrolled last year.

Cobb Children’s Learning Center was founded in 1994 as a child care facility, which expanded into a school as the families’ needs for education increased.

“We have an extensive waiting list for the child care service. We really need to expand and that’s our focus and plan right now,” Kowalczyk said. “We currently have the one facility, we’re looking to expand to meet the community’s need for child care.”

The child care facilities at 1281 Walnut St. will remain open and the board is looking to expand those services. Child care is offered all-day for infants through age five.

Child care is at capacity with about 80 to 90 children attending daily.

“We could be twice the size and still have a waitlist,” Kowalczyk said. “We are very focused on expanding to meet the need. That’s the balance.

“We had the school that was well attended and well-loved, but we have a very clear community need for child care that’s not being met and we’re trying to fill that role,” Kowalczyk said.

Cobb Children’s Learning Center is looking for additional space and staffing for the child care center.

“As soon as we are able to meet those essentials, we plan to open as soon as possible,” Kowalczyk said.

The learning center received $7,500 from the Cow Creek Foundation in June to subsidize costs of child care for low-income families.

Sanne Godfrey can be reached at sgodfrey@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4203. Follow her on Twitter @sannegodfrey.

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Education Reporter

Sanne Godfrey is the education reporter for The News-Review.

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