Much-needed relief

With growing population, North Routt's preschool was necessary

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After 17 years of providing in-home child care for many North Routt County children, Nancy White realized she couldn't fulfill the community's needs.

North Routt's rising population, particularly among preschool-age children, and the increasing number of residents who stayed in or around the community for work shed light on the need for a larger early childhood education program.

The result is North Routt Preschool, a state-licensed early childhood education center housed in the historic Moonhill Schoolhouse. The preschool also is a member of First Impressions of Routt County.

"The growth that's happening in North Routt made it apparent the number of children in the community was growing," White said. "We knew there had to be some sort of a need (for a preschool), and there weren't any other providers."

A few community members led the effort to create the preschool, which opened in late February. The number of children who attend the school has slowly increased since the opening.

"We're really getting our feet under us right now," said White, the preschool's director. "We've brought in quite a few more kids."

Fourteen children are signed up for either the preschool's full- or half-day summer programs, White said. And once the school year begins late this summer, families with kindergarten-age children can use the preschool's program to supplement the North Routt Community Charter School's half-day kindergarten program, White said.

Early childhood education is extremely important for children ages 2 through 6, White said.

"Kids really need that socialization," she said.

The preschool emphasizes place-based education, similar to the North Routt Community Charter School, White said.

"Parents can expect that the kids are learning how to be in a rural setting," she said. "They get to go out and see what's going on in the real world."

North Routt resident Stephanie Anderson sends her two sons, 4-year-old Will and 2-year-old Tyler, to North Routt Preschool. The preschool provides a huge service to the community, she said.

"It's huge for a couple of reasons," Anderson said. "One is that the charter school just opened. (For children) to be able to stay in that area and to play with kids they'll eventually go to school with is nice. We also have a fair amount of parents who now work and live in North Routt."

For some families, the preschool eliminates the need to commute to Steamboat Springs for early childhood education programs, Anderson said.

"It's really exciting for parents and kids to have this program going," she said.

The preschool's organizers have used grants to help fund the program. The preschool is operating in the Moonhill Schoolhouse under a two-year lease with the North Routt Fire Protection District and another entity that owns the historic property.

Only a few minor renovations were needed to open the school, and the opportunity for North Routt youngsters to learn in a building that once educated many of the community's older residents is an added bonus, White said.

However, White said she hoped the preschool is able to move onto the charter school site in the future.

"I think resourcewise, it would be a great deal," she said.

White invited interested parents to attend a North Routt Preschool open house, which will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 6 at the Moonhill Schoolhouse.

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