Summit County extends Summit Pre-K program to families with 3-year-old children |

Summit County extends Summit Pre-K program to families with 3-year-old children

Officials search for funding for countywide child care tuition assistance program

Summit County Preschool, pictured on Jan. 8, is one of the few preschools in Summit County offering early childhood education. The county’s Summit Pre-K program will soon be available for 3-year-old children.
Tripp Fay/For the Summit Daily News

Summit County 3-year-olds will soon be eligible to benefit from child care tuition assistance as part of the Summit Pre-Kindergarten program.

The commissioners gave Early Childhood Options, the nonprofit that manages the Summit Pre-K program, the green light to include 3-year-olds during a work session meeting on Tuesday, March 29. Currently the program, which offers tuition credits to families enrolled in preschools throughout the county, is only available to 4-year-old children.

Early Childhood Options Executive Director Lucinda Burns said the addition of 3-year-olds to the program will improve the county’s child care affordability issues.

“We have been hearing from a lot of families about the need for assistance for 3-year-olds,” Burns said. “ … This is a way to get us closer to serving more families across the county, which really creates greater equity.”

Early Childhood Options hopes to open the program to 3-year-olds as soon as September, Program Director Catherine Schaaf said. The average cost of full-time preschool in Summit County is around $1,500 a month. The program offsets some of that cost by offering credits averaging around $800 a month, she said.

There will be a few key differences between the eligibility requirements for 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds. Families hoping to enroll their 3-year-old will be required to make less than 150% of the area median income, which amounts $150,000 for a family of four.

The income requirements are less restrictive for 4-year-olds since families only need to earn less than $230,000 to $250,000 annually. The nonprofit wanted to make it so the program would be more directed towards families of 3-year-olds who are less likely to be able to afford preschool costs in Summit County.

“Expanding the programming to 3-year-olds is only going to help alleviate some stress on these newer, younger families that we have working in the community,” Schaaf said.

For 3-year-olds, the program will also require that at least one parent works in Summit County. The requirement for 4-year-olds is that one parent lives or works in the county. The idea is to make sure the program is benefiting locals and local businesses, Schaaf said.

Because of the added restrictions on 3-year-olds, which will mean a smaller pool of families, there won’t be any budget amendments to account for the program, Schaaf said. However, the addition of 3-year-olds is expected to add around $500,000 in costs. The commissioners approved a line item on the budget for special projects that will cover that cost, Schaaf said.

The program is funded through the Strong Future Initiative, a ballot measure that supported resources for wildfire prevention, behavioral health, recycling, building facilities and early childhood education through property taxes.

The added restrictions for 3-year-olds should also alleviate some of the burden on Breckenridge and Frisco, which run tuition assistance programs for families who struggle to afford child care. Those programs offer tuition assistance to families with children of all ages who pay 13-16% of their annual income on child care. The county is hoping to start a similar program that applies to children of all ages countywide.

However, the county still needs to secure funding for that sort of program. County officials recently applied for a grant from the state government to support the program and commissioners are hopeful it could get up and running early 2023, commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said.

“That burden has been on Breckenridge for so many years, we’re really proud to see that most recently Frisco joined in,” Lawrence said. “… We appreciate what those towns are doing and we’re really wanting to make it countywide.”

While 3-year-olds won’t be able to apply for Summit Pre-K until the fall, the application is currently open for 4-year-olds, Schaaf said. Interested families can apply by visiting

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