Ashland Family YMCA to be awarded $75,000, Children’s World Montessori $20,000
By Holly Dillemuth, Ashland.news
Following the open application process for the city of Ashland’s Early Childhood Affordability Grant Program that launched in September, two have been selected among several applications received. The two applicants that met the grant criteria and are slated to be awarded funds are the Ashland Family YMCA and Children’s World Montessori.
The grant program was open to all licensed/certified preschool or daycare providers in Ashland, both nonprofit and for-profit. The pilot program aims to address childcare and early learning affordability, and to create more access for Ashland families. Ashland Family YMCA will receive $75,000 and Children’s World Montessori will receive $20,000.
Executive Director Heidi Hill spoke to Ashland.news, including about her application to the pilot program, during a site visit at one of the organization’s co-located preschool sites at Helman Elementary in mid-October.
“The city dollars would really stretch our scholarship dollars,” Hill told Ashland.news in mid-October, following the Y submitting an application. “They’d help provide a lot more access in terms of slots for the people who are right over the income gap, and maybe don’t qualify for (the Employment Related Day Care program, which helps working families pay for child care).”
Children’s World Montessori representatives were unavailable for comment Thursday.
Ashland Family YMCA created 40 all-day preschool slots in public schools within the last year, Hill told Ashland.news in an email, prior to an interview in October.
In addition, the Y has after-school care in three public schools in addition to other programming, she said.
Hill said schools asked the YMCA last year to see if the organization was interested in co-locating preschool.
“Part of our partnership with the schools allows us a classroom at both Helman and at Walker Elementary,” Hill said, near the playground at Helman Elementary.
While the YMCA has two classrooms on site at its facility in south Ashland, Hill said it can be a challenge for parents with kids of varying ages.
“It’s really a challenge sometimes for parents to have to have one more stop in terms of childcare, so the schools really solicited us last year to see if we were interested in co-locating for their workforce as well,” Hill said.
“We’re fortunate that we’re able to, through our scholarship dollars, and ERDC, we only have like one to 5 percent of our enrollees pay the full cost of all day care,” she added.
Jane Prine, head teacher and sub-site director for Helman Elementary, praised the new access for preschool students using Helman and Walker elementary schools.
“It’s really nice that we’re having it at the elementary school because we’re finding that families that have siblings here are wanting to come and most of these kids will be in kindergarten next year,” she said.
One of Prine’s preschool students piped up, “Me, too!”
“Our first day was Sept. 5,” she said, and that she hopes to continue to co-locate preschool at both schools each year.
“We’re really interested in serving the workforce in a way that the Y hasn’t served before,” Hill said. “By offering extended hours, by locating in the community, we’re focused on the family unit and what works for working, busy families. We’re also concerned about families who may be right over the income threshold.”
Background on the city’s pilot program
The city’s pilot program allows Ashland childcare providers to offer affordability scholarships to qualified low and moderate income households seeking early childcare options.
Following the open application process in September 2023, several applications were received, and two applicants met the criteria of the grant.
Funds will be issued in the coming weeks, according to the city, with grant recipients reaching out to families who qualify for scholarships.
“This program reinforces the city’s value of, ‘Community affordability, including available housing and childcare,’” said Paula Hyatt, Ashland city councilor and a member of the Early Childhood Affordability Ad Hoc Committee, in a news release.
The grant program supports the Early Childhood Committee goals to:
• Address Ashland’s need for expanded early childhood care services.
• Respond to households seeking affordability and financial stability.
• Attract and retain a local workforce through quality of life and affordability.
• Reinforce & propel kindergarten readiness in collaboration with partners.
• Support economic development in Ashland.
On a quarterly basis, the grant recipients will submit a report so that the program can be effectively evaluated, according to city officials.
Hyatt and the Ad hoc Committee will monitor the program and provide a year-end program summary or narrative, scholarship data, and recommended next steps to the City Council.
Hill said Ashland Family YMCA has also been offered a potential additional site in Talent, pending confirmation.
“We’re fortunate that our board has invested fronting the costs associated with hiring expertise and also the community, the schools allowing us to use their classrooms,” Hill said. “Y’s have historically been a key component in a large childcare provider. We’re just really fortunate and proud to be able to step into that arena in such a large way.”
In October, Hill said there was a wait list for preschool through Ashland Family YMCA due to low staffing numbers, but Hill said she’s working to build up staffing levels to expand capacity.
“It’s been a long, long time since the YMCA has actually offered a preschool before and the preschool was really kind of a private program within the facility itself. It was supported through the Ashland scholarship but there wasn’t external funding streams attached to it so it’s definitely a very different program than it was previously.”
Those looking to get more information about enrolling students in preschool through Ashland Family YMCA can email firstname.lastname@example.org or talk to Susie Sanders at the Ashland Family YMCA.
“We do have a variety of financial aid options,” Hill said.
For more information on this program, visit ashland.or.us/ChildhoodGrant.