Early Learning Center opens doors | SteamboatToday.com

Early Learning Center opens doors

Parents, children tour new Yampa facility as playground awaits completion

Melinda Dudley

— Despite doubling its capacity with its new facility in Yampa and finally being able to accommodate everyone who wanted to attend this school year, the South Routt Early Learning Center already is receiving phone calls from parents of infants who want to get on the waiting list.

Parents of current and prospective South Routt Early Learning Center students, as well as curious community members from Yampa, checked out the new building during an open house Friday afternoon.

Stained-glass-style leaves, crafted from tissue paper of fall-inspired colors, hung from the ceiling in the Early Learning Center’s central hallway. Finger-painted owls sat perched in a paper tree in Director Tami Hotchkiss’s classroom, and each student’s photo adorned a fall vegetable on the “We’re Gourd-Geous” wall.

Yampa resident Cindy Ashley chatted with teacher Lisa Constine on Friday afternoon while her 2-year-old son, Parker, checked out the Early Learning Center’s toy and snack selection.

“The cookies were a big attraction,” Ashley said.

Constine teaches two 4-year-old classes, and Hotchkiss teaches two 3-year-old classes and one session of 4-year-olds. With a total enrollment of 58 students, the South Routt Early Learning Center is nearly full in its first year in Yampa.

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“As the word spreads and the community sees that we’re doing really well in our new space, interest will continue to grow,” Hotchkiss said.

Last school year, there was a waiting list of 25 students for classes at the old facility in Oak Creek.

“That has definitely changed the school quite a bit, doubling the capacity,” Constine said.

The new facility in Yampa – a partnership between the South Routt Early Learning Center, South Routt School District and the Northwest Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Services – broke ground in November 2007.

Almost one year later, the facility’s first 3- and 4-year-old students eagerly arrived for class Sept. 8, having watched the school be constructed from the ground up. The newness of the preschool took away from the expected first-day-of-school jitters, Hotchkiss said.

“Even the (3-year-olds) were so excited to come here on the first day,” Hotchkiss said.

Some of the exterior landscaping and playground installation had to wait until the new geothermal heat system at the adjacent South Routt Elementary School was complete. Luckily, the preschoolers didn’t go without outdoor playtime; they simply used the elementary school’s playground next door.

The playground fencing at the Early Learning Center was scheduled to be erected during the weekend, Constine said. After the installation of the last of the playground equipment, which arrived last week, and custom cubbies in the hallway, the only thing left to do is to pour concrete for the Early Learning Center’s tricycle track.

“The kids are really excited about finally getting their playground finished,” Hotchkiss said. “Hopefully, the weather is going to cooperate to where we can get it all done by spring.”

– To reach Melinda Dudley, call 871-4203

or e-mail mdudley@steamboatpilot.com

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