Childcare scholarships help families stay in Breckenridge | SummitDaily.com

Childcare scholarships help families stay in Breckenridge

LORY POUNDER
summit daily news

Summit Daily/Mark Fox

Applications and guidelines for the childcare scholarships can be viewed or download from the Early Childhood Options website, http://www.earlychildhoodoptions.org.

Applications must be submitted at the Early Childhood Options office in Dillon, 330 Fiedler Ave. Suite 209 or mailed to PO Box 3355, Dillon, CO 80435.

For more information, families should contact Elizabeth Lowe, 513-1170 ext. 305.

BRECKENRIDGE ” Before being awarded a childcare scholarship from the Town of Breckenridge, Karen and Kevin Esposito considered rearranging their schedules to reduce the days their daughter spent at Little Red School House.

“It’s hard when you’re here and you’re trying to work and raise a family,” said Karen Esposito, sharing a sentiment felt by many young families in the area.

In fact, for a couple ” like the Espositos who just moved into a house and want to settle into raising a family in Breckenridge ” childcare is something that could force them to look elsewhere, officials said.

Recommended Stories For You

So, throughout the past year, the Town of Breckenridge staff and council have been working on childcare initiatives, and recently the first couple rounds of scholarships were awarded.

For the Espositos’ daughter, Isabelle, who is 21 months old, it means she gets to go to Little Red a couple days a week.

“She learns so much there,” said Karen Esposito.

The scholarship program kicked off a couple months ago. In the first round, 21 families applied and eight were granted scholarships.

The second round that came through in January is still being reviewed, and three more rounds of applications will be accepted in March, June and September, officials said.

Some of the families who applied for scholarships did not qualify because they did not live and work in Breckenridge, which is one of the elements of the program that Town plans to monitor, said Laurie Best, town planner.

In 2006, Breckenridge Town Council began investigating the availability and affordability of quality childcare in the community.

What they found was that there was insufficient capacity, staff retention and recruiting was difficult and facilities relied heavily on fundraising to meet daily expenses, explained Best.

So, Town officials and local childcare professionals formed a group to look at what could be done.

The initiatives they came up with include increasing capacity by constructing the new center that is planned to open in August, relieving the debt of the existing facilities, providing salary supplements to providers and tuition assistance, Best added.

As the facilities move into the future, the plan is that they will become more self-sustaining, meaning their rates will increase to cover their costs, officials said.

The increases will likely occur annually throughout the next five years and will likely start in spring with increases of about $10 a day.

The new rates are consistent with rates across the country, and as the rates increase, more families will become eligible for scholarships, Best said.

The Town budgeted about $200,000 in 2008 for scholarships and that number will increase annually up to $480,000 in 2013 to help local families afford the cost of care, she said.

Marcy and Jason Neerhof have a 14-month-old daughter, Merrick, who attends Carriage House. They were one of the first few families to receive a childcare scholarship, which is going to help them save for their daughter’s future.

“It made sense for me and my husband to keep working. … It’s so expensive to live here, but we live in such an amazing place,” Marcy Neerhof said.

She believes the childcare initiatives the Town has taken will help people stay. “We need a local community,” she continued.

“I think the Town did an amazing thing,” Marcy Neerhof said, adding that she feels they’re setting an example for other towns.

Lory Pounder can be reached at (970) 668-4628, or at lpounder@summitdaily.com.