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Children's Village to serve New Mexico State University

Balancing work and family life can be a challenge for New Mexico State University faculty, staff and students, but development of a Children's Village has begun and the corner of Williams Avenue and Sam Steele Way will soon be the campus hub of activity for young children.

Educational Assistant Janet Jimenez, center, plays with Ian Villegas, left, and Jesse Adams-Cahill at New Mexico State University's new Children's Village as the teachers prepare for the first group of students. Ian is on the waiting list and Jesse is cur

In October, the renovation of two units of Vista Del Monte Family Housing was completed. The units will be used as preschool classrooms for the Campaneros Preschool, one of several preschool programs currently located in the basement of O'Donnell Hall, the NMSU College of Education building. In the new facility, the preschool will be able to increase the number of students it serves from 12 to 24. A program of the Las Cruces Public Schools, the preschool was established as a lab site for monolingual special-needs students, but will now be a full-inclusion program, said Betsy Cahill, a professor of early childhood education.

In November, the renovation of another housing unit will be completed for the university's toddler program, which can now expand to full-day child care. Last year it was open only two half-days per week because the building was non-licensable. It also will be able to increase the number of children it serves from 12 to 24.

Richard Kaselow, a project manager for NMSU's Office of Facilities and Services, said the goal is to eventually renovate 16 to 20 of the units for a variety of children and family services for the entire university. The units will be renovated in stages as funds become available through grants and fund-raising efforts. The renovation costs for the entire project are estimated between $1.2 million and $1.5 million, Kaselow said.

Cahill said the idea is to bring all of the university-associated child and family services under one umbrella that will serve as a lab school for many departments on campus as well as increase the availability of quality on-campus, child-care for faculty, staff and students.

Eventually, the College of Education preschool program, also located in the basement of O'Donnell Hall, Head Start programs, the College of Agriculture and Home Economics family service programs and others will be located at the Children's Village. Cahill said organizers also would like to develop new programs, such as an infant-care program and an after-school program with support from student fees.

"We really need everyone to buy into this effort to make it work," Cahill said. "The preschool currently is serving as a learning lab for many departments, not just the College of Education, but we could really expand the learning opportunities for all NMSU students."

The teachers at the university programs are all master's degree prepared.

"Parents could leave their children knowing their care providers are highly trained and educated," she said.

When the current project is completed, Cahill said she thinks the program would be able to serve about 300 children, with possibly more room for expansion, and should be self-supporting.

Fees for the services will be on a sliding scale. Children's Village staff will be available to help students navigate available assistance programs.

"The Children's Village will really be a valuable recruitment and retention program for faculty, staff and students," Cahill said. "With university support we should be able to serve our families and provide at every age group choices for their children's care."