Breckenridge Town Council discusses potential expansion at child care centers |

Breckenridge Town Council discusses potential expansion at child care centers

Little Red Schoolhouse in Breckenridge is pictured on May 9. Town Council discussed potential expansions for the community’s child care centers.
Jason Connolly/For the Summit Daily News

Breckenridge Town Council members opted to wait on approving large expansions at each of the town’s child care facilities, which could bring more than 60 spots for infants and toddlers over the next two years.

Because hundreds of housing units are slated to be built in Breckenridge over the next five years, the town’s child care committee discussed what could be done to create more child care spaces in the town’s facilities. On Tuesday, May 24, child care and housing administrator Austyn Dineen presented the expansion options to council members to determine what route the town wanted to take to address needs.

Breckenridge has 436 children currently on a waitlist for care at facilities enrolled in the town’s tuition assistance program, with the highest need being for infants and toddlers — or children younger than 2 years old. Of those 436 children, 60 are not born yet, 115 are under 12 months old, 95 are between 12 to 24 months, 137 are between 2 to 4 years old, 20 are between 4 and 5 years old and nine kids are over 5 years old. Open Arms Preschool was not included in the capacity study since it only recently enrolled in the town’s tuition assistance program.

“The committee has recommended all capacity expansions based on the current waitlist data, and in 2018, we called 154 children on a waitlist in Breckenridge a crisis, and today it’s pretty jarring,” Dineen said.

Fall 2021 enrollment for the town’s four child care centers in the study noted 235 children enrolled. Timberline Learning Center had 75, Carriage House had 63, Little Red Schoolhouse had 85 and Breckenridge Montessori had 12. Not all children attend five days per week, which means that each day could have a different number of children.

Across the centers, child care employment is down 16 teachers. That does not mean that when those positions are filled that spots for children will immediately open, Dineen said. Administrators at those centers are filling teacher roles, so a new staff member would allow them to not have to have all hands on deck in classrooms.

Expansions would be focused on creating infant and toddler spaces over the next two years, since those have the highest need and require the most care. Little Red Schoolhouse’s potential expansion would add at least three classrooms, office space for administration and security. Timberline Learning Center’s proposed expansion would add classroom space, a multipurpose room and storage. Carriage House would receive classroom space and offices, and Breckenridge Montessori would also receive new office space and a classroom addition.

These expansions would bring new infant/toddler spaces at a total cost of $7.54 million, or about $121,742 per child. The committee recommended moving ahead with all four expansions, while staff opted to recommend moving forward with Little Red Schoolhouse and Timberline Learning Center projects in addition to requesting a proposal for a center at the Alta Verde housing project.

Some council members had concerns with approving large expansion projects before each center had enough staff to accommodate more children. When discussing the new expansions with child care center leadership, the committee took this concern off the table since new housing would relieve some obstacles when it comes to hiring, and opening those new classrooms could be postponed until they’re staffed. Town Manager Rick Holman said that updating current space would be the cheaper, low-hanging fruit to improve the town’s facilities.

“I think that I really would love to see the committee come with a specific plan for employment and how to support that, and then get to the bottom of this.” Council member Kelly Owens said. “Bigger facilities doesn’t necessarily mean more kids.”

Council member Jay Beckerman said that he does not want to wait to get larger projects started until staffing is fixed, since that is a more temporary problem. In the coming months, child care centers are aiming to raise wages for teachers, which will hopefully make the positions more competitive.

“I just think that it’s important to line things up so it’s not just an ‘Oh, nuts’ moment of us going, ‘Oh wow we have nothing rolling.’ Let’s try to get the ball rolling now,” Beckerman said. “I feel like we should have things lined up and at least know how to make them shovel-ready, so when we’re prepared to do those, we can act on them.”

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