The Priceless Years: Community striving to reopen Laurel Street Preschool

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Liana Del Herro and her daughter Ava along with Mike Killingsworth and his daughter Addison leave the Laurel Street Preschool on May 22 after it closed its doors suddenly.

Steamboat’s oldest preschool is working hard to reopen after its sudden closure in May, but its revival might take a little longer than everyone hoped.

Todd Hagenbuch, the president of Laurel Street Preschool’s new board of directors, said Wednesday that the downtown campus needs to raise at least $20,000 to get the doors back open.

The board was hoping to reopen next month in time for the fall semester, but Hagenbuch said that won’t happen.

Instead, fundraisers are ongoing to ensure the campus has enough saved up to operate for a few months.

“We want to make sure when we get reopened that we have a long-term business plan and that includes making some physical changes to the building,” he said. “And hopefully, we’ll be able to make some changes to make sure our income and expenses work out.”

He said the new goal is to raise enough money and make enough physical improvements to the old school to have it reopen at the start of the ski season in November.

The school closed May 22.

The violations included having more children in a room than it legally could hold and children not being supervised at all times.

“It was obvious during that parent meeting the previous board was done. Everyone was done,” Hagenbuch said last week when asked why he volunteered to help save the school. “If Laurel Street was going to continue, everyone was going to have to step up.”

Laurel Street’s closure highlighted the challenges all child care centers in Routt County face.

There’s overhead to meet and a long set of rules to follow.

The school was serving about 30 kids each day, and its closure put several parents in a pinch.

Some of them found grandparents to help with care in the interim. Others were fortunate that several summer camps were starting up shortly after the school closed.

Hagenbuch said Laurel Street also is fortunate to have a private mortgage holder who is working with the new board as it works toward the reopening.

“Otherwise, we were looking at bankruptcy,” he said.

Hagenbuch said the board’s analysis of the school’s finances revealed it mostly was running in the black.

But he said a focus of the new board will be on teacher compensation.

“We’re not paying our people what they’re worth,” he said. “We really should be paying our peo ple more and getting better benefits. That’s what we’re looking at in our structure is how do we restructure our debt to more fully compensate our people? They’re who make the school.”

In the meantime, Hagenbuch said the school is thankful for the support it has received from the community.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

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