Day-care board to mull options

Little Friends center may reopen on half-day basis

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— The board of directors for Little Friends Day Care and Preschool in Oak Creek will meet tonight to discuss reopening the financially strapped child-care center on a half-day basis.

Parents were notified July 25 that the day care center would close July 27, forcing them to scramble for day care. The reason for the closure was financial board members said the day care didn't have enough income to continue operating a facility from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

"The payroll was killing us," said Shelly Kaspar, former director of Little Friends and a current board member.

Board members are looking at a half-day program that would be tailored toward "at-risk" children. It's called the Colorado Preschool Program and the state, not parents, pays for the preschool.

"Every school district has to have a Colorado Preschool Program in place," Kaspar said. "Kids are screened and at-risk children are placed into this program so they're better prepared to go into kindergarten."

CPP standards are based on a number of criteria, including parents' education, employment and income levels.

Learning disabilities are also considered.

"Anything that would affect a child's ability to enter kindergarten on an equal level with other kindergartners (is looked at)," Kaspar said.

While CPP is the responsibility of the school district, Little Friends had been running the service for the school district.

Kaspar said Little Friends had seven children in the CPP program last year and had nine other children whose parents paid for the child-care service.

Now, Little Friends is considering just keeping the CPP program.

"We're looking at changing to a small center license, which would allow us to have 15 kids," Kaspar said. "If the CPP program took up only 10 slots, we'd open those other slots to parent-paying kids."

Kaspar said the CPP-based preschool would have a vacation schedule that mimicked the school district's schedule.

Part of tonight's board meeting will be to determine if the South Routt area has enough families that would use the CPP program. They would then have to determine what they would do with "full-time" children for the second half of the day.

"That's the biggest thing we need to iron out," Kaspar said. "We're looking at offering transportation to those kids to get them to an afternoon program."

Board President Nancy Stahoviak said a home-care provider in Phippsburg who has expanded her day-care capacity might be an option for full-time preschoolers.

She also said someone has called expressing an interest in running a day-care center out of the closed facility.

In the meantime, parents such as Leslie and Steve Faulkner, who work full time, have managed to find child care in places like nearby Phippsburg.

"I'm thrilled there was an opening with a licensed provider and someone my daughter already knows, a former Little Friends employee," Leslie Faulkner said.

However, Faulkner said she would love to see Little Friends reopen for families like hers, not just for "at-risk" kids.

"I think it's great for them, but when you look at all of the full-time working parents middle-class parents who can't qualify for programs like that you're doing a disservice to so many other parents who need full-time, five-day-a-week care not to mention after-school care," Faulkner said.

Stahoviak said the board eventually wants to work its way back to full-time day care and preschool, but the center has to take small steps to remain financially stable.

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