Send the youngest to Yampa | SteamboatToday.com

Send the youngest to Yampa

School Board selects South Routt Early Learning Center site

Mike Lawrence

— Pending grant approval, the new South Routt Early Learning Center will be built in Yampa.

The South Routt School Board voted 5-1 on Thursday night to approve construction of the preschool on a site adjacent to South Routt Elementary School. Board President Tim Corrigan said a preschool in Yampa will provide a smooth transition for preschool students into the elementary school and allow elementary school staff — such as special education professionals and therapists — to work with preschoolers.

“It really has everything to do with the sharing of resources with the elementary school,” Corrigan said.

The Northwest Board of Co—-operative Educational Ser–vices manages the current South Routt Early Learning Center in Oak Creek and will manage the new facility in Yampa. The South Routt School District owns the Yampa site and will make a “donation in kind” of the land to BOCES, Superintendent Kelly Reed said. The school district will maintain ownership of the land and lease it to BOCES at a minimal charge — likely $1 a year, Reed said, which is a standard amount for such donations.

Reed also is a member of the Early Learning Center Board, a citizen group that has directed evaluations and public forums during the past several months to assess potential preschool sites in Yampa, Oak Creek and Stagecoach. The learning center board recommended the Yampa site to the School Board in February, but the School Board chose to take two months to gather more information.

Corrigan and School Board member Gena Hange said they became convinced about the Yampa site during a meeting last week with members of the learning center board.

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“They have given a great deal of thought and gone through a very good process to determine that Yampa is the best site for them,” Corrigan said. “It was very clear to me that they’re not shooting from the hip.”

School Board member Gary Miller was absent Thursday. Board member AlidaLee Gin–gerich voted against the Yampa site because, she said, more than 40 percent of the 45 students who attend the preschool live in Oak Creek.

“I can’t tell you how many mothers have talked to me and said if the preschool is moved to Yampa, they won’t go,” Gingerich said.

Corrigan said that although the Yampa site will have easy access to a road, water and electricity, the proposed sites in Oak Creek and Stagecoach would have required significantly more infrastructure.

“Being in the construction business, I could never conceive how they could afford to build a school on top of this hill (behind school administrative offices in Oak Creek) or in Stagecoach,” Corrigan said. “This might have been an opportunity to include Stagecoach in our school district, but the reality is that building site is just not ready.”

BOCES and the Early Learn–ing Center Board will apply for a grant in August from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs to provide funding for the preschool’s construction, which could begin in spring 2007.

Oak Creek resident John McCollum is president of the Early Learning Center Board, which includes Routt County Commissioner and Oak Creek resident Nancy Stahoviak and Stagecoach resident Erica Okonski.

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203

or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com