Monday is first day for students at Steamboat’s district-run preschool | SteamboatToday.com

Monday is first day for students at Steamboat’s district-run preschool

Michelle Gutierrez

— Monday marks the first day of class for the Steamboat Springs School District's littlest learners, who range in age from 3 to 6 years old.

The district assumed operations this summer of a preschool program previously run through a contract with the Northwest Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

The Early Childhood Center remains at the district's Seventh Street site, but is now part of the district's elementary program, overseen by Strawberry Park Elementary Principal Tracy Stoddard and Soda Creek Elementary Principal Michele Miller.

"We've incorporated it within our overall elementary program," said Superintendent Brad Meeks.

The district made the decision to take over the preschool from BOCES this spring, citing an estimated $30,000 in savings they could realize by running the school.

Two new teachers are at the school, but some support staff have remained the same, according to district officials.

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"We've hired a great staff, and we're excited to get the kids in there," Miller said.

Preschool registration took place Thursday, when students were able to visit their new classrooms.

The center has 48 students enrolled in half-day sessions either two or four days per week, increased from 44 students enrolled last year. More students are on a waiting list, and preschool leaders are working on making the center opened to students as young as 2 1/2.

Taking over the preschool is the first step in long-term plans the district has to be able to offer even more preschool slots.

A facilities plan attached to a proposed $92 million bond the district is placing on the November ballot includes the renovation of Soda Creek and Strawberry Park to house two preschool classrooms each, doubling the number of slots currently offered.

The future preschool program would also offer extended hours, rather than only half-day morning or afternoon sessions offered now.

"It's really a struggle to drop kids off at certain times," Miller said. "It's hard for parents."

The current program charges a tuition of $25 per session for students, though lots of organized funding and scholarships cover the cost for many students, including those who need special attention.

Getting students who require support services into the school district system earlier is one of the advantages of the district taking over the school, Miller said.

"It's just good for the kids, especially students that need certain services," she said. "We're able to provide for them on site, so when they go into kindergarten, it won't be so different."

Miller said the district offering preschool is good for many reasons.

"I think it's an opportunity for us to provide families and kids with a solid education in a setting that's going to be familiar for them," she said. "I don't know why we wouldn't want that opportunity — lot's of district's do it."

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow