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OJC Child Care Center Evolves

For the past 21 years, Otero Junior College has operated a child care center as a service to students, the community, and as a laboratory for students enrolled in the OJC Early Childhood Education program. Since 1976 the college has also been federally funded to conduct early childhood programs for Head Start, Early Head Start, and Migrant Head Start which are operated by OJC Child Development Services (CDS). Effective August 2nd, the college combined the early childhood programs under one administration which will be managed by CDS.

During January of 2003, an Early Childhood Center was established at the former Columbian Elementary School in La Junta. The establishment of the center was a cooperative effort to consolidate early childhood education services among OJC Child Care Center, CDS, and East Otero School District's Colorado Pre-School Program.

"While the OJC Child Care Center and programs operated by CDS are funded from two separate sources, OJC oversees both programs," explained Jim Rizzuto, president of Otero Junior College. "Once we had the two programs located at the Columbian Early Childhood Center, one of our goals was to streamline services to children, and avoid duplication of services and administration. One way we are able to accomplish this is for CDS to provide the day-to-day administration of the Columbian Early Childhood Center. CDS already operates early childhood education programs all across southeast Colorado, and has a long tradition of delivering high quality services designed to foster healthy development in children, with the overall goal of increasing the school readiness of young children," said Rizzuto.

According to Sharon Kolomitz, CDS Director, the opportunity to house daycare, Head Start, and the Colorado Preschool Program at one facility will provide seamless service for children and promote consistent expectations. Already the creation of the Columbian Early Childhood Center has provided the opportunity for collaboration in staff training, child assessment practices, and in establishing baselines for school readiness for children.

Laboratory experiences required for certification in the OJC Early Childhood Education (ECE) program will continue to be fulfilled at the current location, as well as other area daycare centers. The majority of the educational classroom requirements for OJC students enrolled in the ECE program will also continue to be held at Columbian.

Current pre-school and daycare services for children between the ages of 2 years four months, through kindergarten age will continue without interruption under CDS management. Hours of operation for the daycare will be 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. In order to plan staffing patterns and provide individualized programming for children, there will be no drop-in services. Fees for preschool age daycare will remain unchanged.

The major change that will occur as a result of the decision to focus on preschool services and to promote school readiness is the elimination of infant and toddler daycare after August 13th.

Before and after school care will continue to be offered at Columbian; however, there are a limited number of spots available for the program. "We are currently working with the East Otero School District to help develop an after-school care program at Columbian that will allow children to receive further mentoring and support from school district staff and OJC Early Childhood Education Lab students," said Rizzuto.

For more information or to have specific questions answered about services, please contact the Columbian Early Childhood Center at 384-8479.
Fall semester at OJC begins on August 23. For information regarding enrollment in Early Childhood Education classes at OJC, contact ECE instructors, Tami Stephenson or Charlyn Mascarenas at 384-8479, extension 238 or extension 236







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