Big boost for Little Red Schoolhouse
BRECKENRIDGE – The oversized cardboard checks and schoolchildren in red plastic hard hats belied the magnitude of the event.
For while the small group gathered at Little Red Schoolhouse in Breckenridge Wednesday showed gratitude for corporate largesse and cooperation between public and private organizations, a much larger group – some 50 more children and their families and 20 adults with new jobs – will benefit from increased childcare offerings and employment in the stressed industry.
Vail Resorts presented the childcare facility with a $100,000 check Wednesday. The Summit Foundation added another check for $75,000. The donations, along with land provided by the developer of the Vista Point neighborhood, represent the kickoff of Little Red Schoolhouse’s $1 million campaign to build a new childcare facility.
The Montessori-based school plans to break ground this summer between Vista Point and the Wellington Neighborhood. The new school will provide care and education for 80 students, 50 more than currently enrolled and including 30 slots for toddler and infant care. The school’s staff will increase from its current roster of seven to as many as 28, director Alison Stewart said.
“We have 120 kids on our waiting list for preschool right now,” Stewart said. “The new school will go a long way to reducing that. We’ll also be getting licensed to offer care beginning at six weeks of age. That will mean families can stay with us from infant up to 5 years old for continuous care.”
As Summit County has grown, so has the demand for childcare. Service has not kept up with demand, however. BBC Research and Consulting of Denver conducted a study last year which found the $6.4-million local industry is strained by rising costs, a prevalence of working mothers and continuing growth.
For example, the study found that 75 percent of children up to age 6 live in households in which both parents work. The national average is 56.6 percent. Eighty-four percent of women in Summit County work – the highest proportion in the nation, the study said. In addition, nearly half of parents surveyed in the study spend $500 to $749 per month for infant and toddler care.
“This is an example of something that affects quality of life in Breckenridge,” Mayor Sam Mamula said at the check-swapping. “We felt, frankly, because of the growth in the community, we were falling behind in childcare. If we want to maintain this quality of life, we have to do more than affordable housing.”
The town of Breckenridge wrangled a give-and-take with Breckenridge Ski Resort and Vail Resorts to support the school. Wednesday’s donation came as a result of negotiations between the entities in hashing out the master plan for the resort’s Peak 7 and Peak 8 developments. The town and resort collaborated to choose an organization that would most benefit from the gift.
Once the town gives final approval for the master plan later this spring, Vail Resorts will contribute an additional $100,000 to Little Red Schoolhouse.
“We recognize, as the largest employer around, we need to be part of the solution,” said Jack Wolfe, Vail Resorts vice president for Summit County development.
Vail Resorts also has been instrumental in expanding childcare in the Snake River valley through Keystone Resort. In approving the ski area’s PUD, or planned unit development (similar to a master plan), county commissioners required the resort to build a childcare facility when commercial real estate build-out reached 95,000 square feet.
The resort postponed childcare center plans, however, after Keystone Real Estate Developments (KRED) donated $200,000 to the Zoomers daycare center in Dillon. The gift complemented the childcare center’s loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and allowed it to move into a new building.
Thomas Davidson, director of development for Keystone Resort and former planning manager for KRED, said Keystone still intends to donate land for another childcare facility in the vicinity of the resort once county government and local childcare organizations are ready to proceed with plans.
Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 237, or email@example.com.
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