Two buildings, one need

Routt County has void in infant, toddler care

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Two new preschools may not fill Routt County's child care void, a local child care official said Tuesday.

"We could easily open several more infant and toddler places, even in Steamboat (Springs)," Renee Donahue said. "The reason we don't is that it's hard to make those places cost-effective because of the staffing ratios involved."

Donahue is the early childhood manager for First Impressions of Routt County, an organization that helps preschools receive grant funding. First Impressions gave $400,000 to county preschools last year for staff salary, training and program development.

Her words are sobering in light of recent progress made toward easing Routt County's lack of services for infants and toddlers. During the past 10 days, significant steps have been taken toward the construction of new preschools in Yampa and Clark.

The April 18 approval of a $330,000 community development block grant from the state Department of Local Affairs cleared the way for groundbreaking on the Clark site on Routt County Road 129 near North Routt Community Charter School. That groundbreaking is expected to occur in late May or early June. The site will be able to provide care for at least 10 infants and toddlers.

On Thursday night, the South Routt School Board approved the construction of a preschool on a site adjacent to South Routt Elementary School in Yampa.

Donahue said that although the two preschools will provide huge benefits to early childhood needs, those needs will remain significant.

"The rural parts of our county have a great need for preschool and early childhood care," she said.

Donahue said Hayden has a preschool inside Hayden Valley Elementary School and several home providers. Still, the town "does not have a full child care center" for children younger than 2.

"There have been a couple movements to get one," Donahue said, adding that those movements failed. "But it takes a lot of grass-roots effort to get a brand-new center."

In Steamboat, several family child care homes provide infant and toddler care along with two larger facilities: GrandKids at Yampa Valley Medical Center and Young Tracks Preschool on Mid Valley Drive.

Donahue said facilities require no more than a 5-to-1 ratio of infants to adults. Home-based centers can take only two infants for every adult on staff, leading to financial constraints, she said.

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