Steamboat Springs Oak Creek's Little Friends Day Care and Preschool, which was forced to abruptly close July 27 because of financial problems, will be back in operation Sep. 10, the first day of public school.
Board members from the South Routt community and education professionals from Routt County hashed out the details in a 3 1/2-hour session, which included hiring a new director/teacher.
The preschool will reopen under a new name that has yet to be decided. The "South Routt Early Learning Academy" was a favorite among residents at the meeting.
The old child-care facility will now become a half-day preschool program, geared toward preparing children for kindergarten. The preschool would be funded by the Colorado Preschool Program, which is normally run by school districts.
In this case, the Soroco school district wants the new "Academy" to provide the preschool service.
Children eligible for the Colorado Preschool Program are considered "at-risk" and would have their tuition paid for by the state.
Criteria for scholarships are based on a number of qualifiers, including whether parents were college educated, whether both parents work, income and learning disabilities.
The Colorado Preschool Program director for Soroco schools said she's identified 10 children who would be eligible for the free preschool program.
The new academy also hopes to recruit two to three regular students whose parents would pay $20 for the half-day preschool.
Board members agreed that the new academy should concentrate on building up a quality preschool program that will eventually attract all kinds of families.
Soroco Superintendent Steve Jones said the academy's new director, Cyndi Ashley, is key in building what he hopes will be Routt County's best preschool.
"I've mentioned her to people and they all said you couldn't get anyone better," Jones told the board of Little Friends.
Cyndi Ashley, a Yampa resident, works as an occupational therapist for Oak Creek and Steamboat Springs schools.
She's also studying for her master's degree in Early Childhood Education.
"This is where I was headed, where I wanted to be,"
"I have a special-ed background and work with motor development, which is a huge part of preschool."
Ashley would run the new academy part time while still working part time for Soroco schools as an occupational therapist. Colorado Preschool Program funds would pay her preschool salary $19,000 in wages and benefits. The preschool would run on the same schedule as schools, with vacation and summer breaks.
The new "academy" will also be looking for a part-time teacher's aide to assist Ashley. They estimate the pay will be about $10 an hour and would include sick leave.
Faced with harsh realities, board members agreed to "take it slow," concentrating on the half-day preschool program and keeping full-time child care on the back burner.
Home-care provider Lisa Constine attended the meeting and said she has expanded her day care to help take in those preschoolers who need full-time care.
Board members debated how the children would get from the academy to Constine's home in Phippsburg or other home-care facilities. Constine said she might be willing to use her van to pick up the children from the academy. Board members agreed parents would have to work that out with Constine.
Sharon Kelley, a Steamboat resident who licenses and monitors child-care facilities for the state of Colorado, said parents of preschoolers in Hayden and Steamboat Springs deal with those same issues every day.
"Parents do get creative and figure it out," Kelley said.
In the meantime, the Little Friends board is looking at a $4,000 shortfall as it finishes paying off its bills.
The board members decided to hold off on paying an IRS bill until they sell the day care's van.
And for the first time, board members worked out an official budget, estimating it would take $45,000 to operate the facility in the first year.
Children eligible for the new academy have to turn 3 years old by Sept. 1. Those turning 5 years old by Sept. 1 are not eligible because they are supposed to be in kindergarten already.
For more information, call Little Friends at (970) 736-2434.