Impressions defines directions

Group holds annual board retreat

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— Early childhood care and education is alive and well in Routt County.

It's a message supporters of early childhood development hope to bring to the public in 2003.

First Impressions of Routt County held its annual board retreat Wednesday to consider its direction in the coming year.

Board members pushed for ways to improve First Impressions' presence in the community.

"The key strategy is to have something consistently out there," said Ken Brenner, a parent representative on the board. "It's critical."

First Impressions coordinates early childhood care and education in Routt County.

The board looked at different tools to get the word out more about programs and services for children and families.

Members suggested putting their message in newsprint and distributing brochures in various medical, school and county offices.

Community outreach is one of the board's three priorities in 2003.

It's important to make the information accessible to the people who want it, said Jenna Davis, consolidated child-care project coordinator for Colorado.

Davis, who was a guest speaker at the retreat, presented some local alternatives to funding early childhood care and education.

Health and human services and education have taken a back seat in the U.S. Congress and Colorado State Assembly to homeland security and talk of war with Iraq.

Counties and cities must look for new funding mechanisms because they cannot depend on state and federal funding, she said.

That doesn't mean local governments in Colorado should stop pleading their cases with their elected representatives, Davis added.

She praised the county for its commitment to early childhood care and education.

"Routt County is doing great work," she said.

The board's other priorities for 2003 include school readiness and resource development.

Members want to ensure that children start school ready to learn, and they are looking down the road at the likelihood of another ballot issue to raise money for early childhood care and education.

A ballot initiative that would have raised property taxes to fund early childhood education failed in 2001.

An effort to bring the question back to voters won't happen anytime soon.

The board would like to focus on educating the community about its vision before it again asks the community to invest in that vision.

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