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UO faculty aim to solve their own childcare problems by funding preschool expansion at Willamalane

Kids sit on a bright rug in a classroom.
Lavender Lemonade Photography/Lavender Lemonade Photography
Willamalane Park and Recreation District
Funding from the University of Oregon will afford new classroom spaces to enable Willamalane to add 60 children to the 40 kids currently served.

A lingering childcare shortage in Lane County has prompted a new partnership between Willamalane Park and Recreation District in Springfield and the University of Oregon. The UO is giving the district $500,000 to expand its pre-school program.

Willamalane Executive Director Michael Wargo said the funds were allotted in collaboration with United Academics, the union representing university faculty.

“This one-time investment will provide an additional two brand new classroom spaces that will then enable us to welcome 60 additional children on top of the 40 that we currently serve,” said Wargo.

While over half of the new classroom slots will be offered as first option to UO faculty and staff, Wargo said the partnership will result in a net gain in new childcare opportunities for the community.

The extra classrooms at Willamalane’s Bob Keefer Center are expected to open September 2024. Wargo said the extended timeline is due to requirements for a public entity to get things built. Planning, designs, public bids and permits take time, he said.

“The September 2024 target date makes sense for the community,” said Wargo. “When summer ends, siblings are going back to school and that’s when parents are looking for childcare for their youngest kiddos.”

According to Wargo, Willamalane will focus on maintaining necessary staffing to run the newly funded childcare program at full capacity. The expanded preschool program will serve children 3 to 5 years old, “getting them ready to enter elementary school.”

Willamalane Park and Recreation District is a stand-alone, governmental agency, separate from the City of Springfield. It provides 45 different parks, four facilities, and special events.

Tiffany joined the KLCC News team in 2007. She studied journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia and worked in a variety of media including television, technical writing, photography and daily print news before moving to the Pacific Northwest.
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