Steamboat Resort plans new child care center for employees to open by late 2022 |

Steamboat Resort plans new child care center for employees to open by late 2022

Still early in the process, the center hopes to provide space for about 35 children, opening up spots for others in the community

Steamboat Resort
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. is taking the first step to open its own child care center, which hopes to create 35 spots for resort staff by late 2022 — theoretically opening up those spots for others at child care centers throughout the community.

On Monday, Ski Corp. posted an advertisement for a new director of child care position, which it says is the first step to opening its own center.

“We recognize there are many issues facing our community, and this is a big first step for the resort to support families,” said Rob Perlman, president and COO of Ski Corp., in a statement announcing the move Monday. “While this looks like just a benefit for our staff, the impacts are far reaching.”

Routt County’s child care shortage isn’t new — it has been designated a child care desert by Colorado’s Office of Early Childhood — and officials say the new facility will not entirely solve what has become a crisis largely because of staffing and not necessarily because of a lack of centers.

Still, elected officials often point to Ski Corp. as a business that could — and maybe should — be stepping up to help the Yampa Valley with problems like child care and housing, and while the center would only serve resort employees, it would open up spots in other centers around town.

“The idea of employer sponsored or supported child care is one of the strategies we can use as a community to address our child care shortage,” said Routt County Commissioner Beth Melton. “This is an all hands on deck kind of approach, and I think it is important to support employers that are interested.”

Melton said she has encouraged local employers to explore creating their own facility and First Impressions of Routt County, the local early childhood council, has tried to help employers that may be interested in figuring out what it would take.

The prospect of the resort offering child care has been discussed on and off for a long time, but that increased earlier this year, said Loryn Duke, Ski Corp.’s director of communications.

“We had a lot of new mothers on staff, and child care was becoming a barrier for a lot of our staff members,” said Duke, who had a child about six months ago. “When I came back from maternity leave, some of these conversations were happening internally, and it became a passion of mine, as well.”

Maren Franciosi, communications manager at the resort, lost her child care when Little Lambs in South Routt County was forced to close because of a lack of staff. At the time, she contemplated leaving her job at the resort to provide her own child care.

“We had a month or two time period where there were a handful of us in one office setting affected by this,” Franciosi said. “It couldn’t have been just us so we were just seeing how big of a crisis it was becoming. … Something needed to happen.”

Duke championed resort leadership for being supportive of the idea to build a new center, but she said credit lies elsewhere, as well.

“It’s also a testament to the power of some moms who identified a problem, figured out a solution and presented a proposal that was compelling to our senior team,” Duke said.

Hiring a director is the first of many steps that still need to happen before toddlers are bouncing around the resort’s new child care center, and that step alone could be challenging.

“I wish them all the luck in the world finding staff,” said Routt County Commissioner Tim Corrigan. “Unless they’re planning on paying more money for staff, they’re going to have the same struggles that all of our other child care centers have.”

The job posting for the director position lists a pay range of between $45,000 and $65,000 per year, though that could vary more based on a variety of factors. Angela Pleshe, program director with First Impressions, said this range is similar to what directors are paid in other local centers, which average $56,220 per year.

The resort will eventually need to hire early childhood education teachers, as well. One advantage the resort has is that it can offer benefits, like health insurance, that many of the local child care centers cannot.

A concern among some is that opening a new center wouldn’t really address the problem but instead move it around, as the staff required would be hired away from other centers. This concern has been raised about Routt County building a new child care center near the planned Health and Human Services Building, as well.

“That is absolutely one of our biggest concerns,” Duke said. “We are trying to recruit from outside the community if possible, but we also want to support growth within our community. So if there is an opportunity for someone who’s local to grow in their role, we want to support that.”

The target is to open the new center late in 2022. Over the next year, the resort will need to work through the process of finding a location, acquiring the proper permits and licenses, hiring staff and figuring out other logistics needed to open a facility.

“What is happening out there, there is just nothing for parents when they want to return to work,” Melton said. “I think any spots that can be created are valuable for the community.”

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