Steamboat schools doubling preschool classrooms next fall
A longer-term goal for district is to offer infant and toddler care
The Steamboat Springs School District is doubling its number of preschool classrooms next year, adding 45 more spots and opening two new classrooms at Strawberry Park Elementary.
The district is also in the early planning to offer additional hours of care for preschoolers who are the children of district employees, Anne-Marie Tennyson, the district’s director of exceptional student services, said Monday, March 28.
Those extra hours would be before and after preschool’s current hours and on Fridays, as the preschool program only operates Monday to Thursday.
“We have not quite determined how that’s going to look yet,” Tennyson said, adding that more planning was ongoing. “That will accommodate teacher’s work schedule, or any school staff really.”
Tennyson said a longer-term goal for the district would be to eventually offer infant and toddler care as well, though it could take several years to jump through all the hoops needed to meet child care regulations.
“Our focus for next fall will be opening Strawberry Park and getting the employees option up and running,” said superintendent Brad Meeks.
Currently, the district has 50 students enrolled in either a partial or full-day preschool classroom. This includes two full-day programs — one at Sleeping Giant School and the other at Soda Creek Elementary — each with 15 students. Soda Creek also has two half-day classes, serving 20 total students.
This fall, the district will open another full-day classroom at Sleeping Giant, adding capacity for 15 preschoolers. Class configuration will stay the same at Soda Creek, offering a total of 45 spots, with 30 of those being in a half-day class.
The district will then open two full-day classrooms at Strawberry Park Elementary, adding capacity for 30 more students. In all, the district will have capacity for 105 preschoolers this fall, up from 60 this year.
Tennyson said 12 employees responded to a survey saying they were interested in using the district’s preschools. Where the additional staff program would be located hasn’t been decided, but because this care would include Friday, Tennyson said they would want to group all these children in the same class.
“I’m super excited that we have the opportunity to provide additional care for staff,” said School Board president Katy Lee. “I think that’s a huge thing for the families that it affects.”
Adding additional infant and toddler care capacity is likely a few years out, but Meeks said the district may be able to move faster than an ongoing joint effort between the city of Steamboat Springs and Routt County to build a child care facility.
Meeks said Routt County commissioner Beth Melton suggested the district keep pursuing its own path to offering infant and toddler care, as things can be less complicated with fewer partners. Melton has also previously stated that the community needs to add more than one facility to meet the need locally.
Meeks said the county would share results of a feasibility study being conducted about building and operating a new center. The first phase of the study revealed land where the county is building a new health and human services building may not be the ideal location for child care.
County commissioners approved an expanded child care feasibility study earlier this week, which is expected to look at potential parcels in Steamboat on which a child care center could be built.
While the county itself owns little land outside its downtown Steamboat Campus, the school district may have some options.
“(Melton’s) recommendation was to continue to do our own,” Meeks said. “We might be in a position to maybe move a little faster too, because we do have property and we have facilities.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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