Area preschools expanding

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— Under the pressure of growing waiting lists and increasing demand for child care and education, preschools across Routt County are expanding.

Three area preschools recently completed or are working on facility expansions. That's in addition to a number of preschools that expanded into new or renovated buildings in the past few years, said Renee Donahue, early childhood manager for First Impressions of Routt County, adding that most preschools in the county have waiting lists.

Heritage Park Preschool, in its fourth year of service, just added a third room, increasing its capacity from 30 children to 45 children.

The preschool is housed inside Christian Heritage Sch--ool, which moved a kindergarten classroom to allow the preschool to expand, Heritage Park Preschool Director Audrey Zwak said.

The expansion was completed with the help of a $4,600 special needs grant from Routt County United Way and hours of labor and in-kind donations from volunteers.

The preschool offers one classroom for children who are between 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 years old, a transition class for children who are between 3 1/2 and 4 years old and a pre-kindergarten class for children who are 4 to 5 years old.

The pre-kindergarten class is full, but there still is space for children younger than 4.

"It's exciting," Zwak said about the preschool's expansion. "We've had such a crunch in town for spaces, it's really neat to be able to fill some slots."

And this might not be the only expansion for Heritage Park Preschool.

"If the need is there a couple years down the road, we'll look at expanding again," she said.

Meanwhile, North Routt Preschool hopes to break ground on its new building in April. The preschool received a $330,000 community development block grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs in the spring and has worked to raise additional funds for the $550,000 facility.

The preschool still needs to raise $90,000, director Nancy White said. It is accepting local donations.

The center will be near the North Routt Community Charter School in Clark and will be able to care for as many as 15 children at a time, including five infants and five toddlers. That is double what the preschool currently can accommodate. Being able to provide care for babies meets a huge need for the community, White said.

The South Routt Early Learning Center also is working on plans for a new building. Cindy Ashley, director of the preschool, said a $17,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs has been awarded to fund the research of a new building. The facility is licensed to serve 15 students at a time but has found that a much greater demand exists in the South Routt area.

-- To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail scunningham@steamboatpilot.com

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