Steamboat Springs Steamboat Springs’ oldest preschool closed its doors Wednesday just 24 hours after parents were given a memo from Laurel Street Preschool’s board of directors informing them of the decision.
A meeting for the board to address families is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday.
That was of little solace to parent Mike Killingsworth, who picked up his 4-year-old daughter, Addison, from the preschool Wednesday afternoon. He said he didn’t have a plan for Addison’s care beginning Thursday.
“No one will tell us what’s really going on,” Killingsworth said.
Board members declined to discuss specifics Wednesday, saying more would be revealed to parents during Thursday’s meeting. The board issued a brief statement that said: "We are sad to announce that Laurel Street School will be closing to address issues brought up by the CO Department of Human Services, Office of Early Childhood, Division of Early Care and Learning. At this time, we found it to be in the best interest of the children to close the school to allow us to address these issues. We look forward to answering questions at our parent meeting, Thursday night at 5:30."
The Tuesday memo from the board to parents, titled “Immediate School Closure Wednesday May 22, 2013,” read:
“The board of directors received a report generated from an intensive state inspection late Friday afternoon informing us of many violations at the school. We held an emergency meeting Monday night to review the violation and consider our options. After much discussion and consultation, the board and its advisors have decided that it is in the best interest of your children to close the school at the end of the day Wednesday May 22, 2013 while we decide the next plan of action for the school. We do not know when or if the school will reopen and strongly recommend pursuing other options.
“There will be a meeting to answer your questions Thursday at 5:30 at the Laurel Street Preschool.”
A copy of the state’s inspection report was provided to the Steamboat Today by Laurel Street board members, two of whom have children who attend the school and another two who have children who previously attended. The 12-page report, compiled by Sharon Kelley on behalf of the Colorado Department of Human Service’s Division of Child Care, listed violations that included:
- More children than a room can legally hold
- The presence of an open cupboard with easy access to chemicals
- Children not being directly supervised at all times
- A broken playground structure that could pose a danger to children
- An insufficient amount of impact-absorbent material on the playground
- Children washing hands while unattended
- A lack of an Individual Education Plan for a special needs child
- Times when the teacher-to-student ratio was insufficient
- Lack of documentation for staff training
- Employee files lacking required forms and documentation of qualifications to perform their duties
- Violations not corrected from a previous health inspection
The preschool has a new executive director who had been on the job for less than two weeks at the time of Friday’s inspection. The timeline and tenure of previous school directors wasn’t clear Wednesday.
According to a job description for the Laurel Street Preschool executive director position posted online in mid-April, the preschool’s director is responsible for overseeing “all aspects of the operation, including but not limited to, finances, personnel issues, community relations, and compliance with rules and regulations."
Stephanie Martin, director of First Impressions of Routt County, an early childhood education advocacy organization, couldn’t provide specifics about Laurel Street Preschool’s closure, but she lamented the loss of the facility.
“This is a really, really sad day to see a program that has had a long history in Steamboat close,” Martin said Wednesday.
She said the next couple of weeks will prove to be the biggest challenge for Laurel Street families suddenly in need of child care options. Options will be easier once summer programs, including the Steamboat Ski Area’s Kids Vacation Center, begin in a few weeks. Martin also anticipates that the community’s existing programs will meet the demand for preschool enrollment next fall.
Martin recommended that any parents in need of help locating child care call the Child Care Network at 970-879-7330.
Laurel Street Preschool has been in operation for more than 40 years and serves preschool-age and pre-Kindergarten children, beginning at 2 1/2 years old. The school is housed in an Old Town home that dates to the 1930s. Its last extensive renovation was in the 1970s.