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Summit County organizations try to fill demand for after-school care

Children engage in book time with a camp counselor at the Breckenridge Mountain Camp in Breckenridge on Feb. 17.
John Hanson/For the Summit Daily News

Summit County organizations are stepping up as Keystone Science School finishes its final week of after-school programming for the 2021-22 year.

The science school hosted its last after-school session at Silverthorne, Dillon Valley and Frisco elementary schools Thursday, March 17, leaving around 50 children without care, according to a Summit County child care needs assessment. On March 2, the nonprofit announced it would have to close after-school operations because of prolonged staffing shortages.

In the weeks following the science school’s announcement, local leaders have scrambled to find solutions. Some families are trying to coordinate with one another, having one parent watch a group of children each day of the week. Others are cutting their losses and missing work or having their children walk home alone, said Robin Albert, Summit County Youth and Family manager.



“With jobs and having to run back and forth and get their kids and try to get them to some other child care, it’s hard for a lot of parents,” Albert said.

Fortunately for some parents, local organizations are trying to fill the gaps left by the science school’s cancellation. The Lake Dillon Theatre Co. has expanded the capacity of its Silverthorne Elementary dual-language, after-school program from 24 to 42 students a day starting Monday, March 21.



Artistic Director Chris Alleman said the theater originally started the program in January as a way to help with the demand for after-school services. The theater raised around $500,000 to pay for new staff members, transportation and everything else that goes into the program, which is free for all students.

“We’re a professional theater. We’re not an after-school care,” Alleman said. “But part of who we are is also making sure that we are making a positive impact on the community.”

The after-school care is one part of an overarching Dual Language Theatre Arts Outreach Program, which the theater started in order to more equitably serve the Spanish-speaking community in Summit County. The students participating in the after-school portion of the program are involved in the theater’s dual language production of “Tomás and the Library Lady” on Tuesday, March 22.

The theater plans to further expand in the fall by adding after-school programming at Summit Cove and Dillon Valley elementary schools in addition to Silverthorne Elementary. The Summit Cove program will be able to host around 30 students, and Dillon Valley will host 40.

Alleman said the theater offers full-time, salaried positions to the teachers who run the programs. Because of the full-time nature of the role, the theater won’t have the same staffing challenges as other after-school programs, such as the science school, which struggled to find people to work only a few hours a day.

“We want to provide these educational theater experiences, but it really is just about trying to make an impact to our kids and our families,” Alleman said.

Other after-school programs would like to follow the theater’s lead, but staffing continues to be a challenge.

The town of Frisco is hoping to host around 10 to 15 more students each day at its after-school programs by hiring two or three more staff members, Recreation Programs Manager Linsey Joyce said. The town would also be able to add another day to its programs if it could hire more people.

Joyce said the town struggles to staff the programs because it’s often difficult to find people who have the availability to work after school.

“From the 3:30-5:30 time frame, it’s just a couple of hours in the afternoon,” she said. “A lot of people have full-time jobs that they have to work until 4 or 5 in the evening.”

Summit County 4-H is also looking to expand its programs but needs volunteers, said Program Manager Kathie Kralik. The program currently serves about 50 students in the County Commons in Breckenridge and at Upper Blue Elementary.

Kralik said volunteers can teach any number of subjects, like rocketry, geology, cake decorating or arts and crafts. The program offers training to volunteers who are interested and also has the budget to provide supplies.

“We can train people. We just need that positive adult role model that’s willing to offer something,” Kralik said.

People who are interested in volunteering for 4-H can get started by reaching out to Kralik at kathie.kralik@summitcountyco.gov. Anyone who would like to work for the town of Frisco after-school program can do so by visiting FriscoGov.com.


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