West Grand opening new daycare center to help retain staff, alleviate childcare needs
In an effort to tackle multiple community concerns, West Grand School District will be opening a new daycare center in Kremmling that will significantly increase the childcare capacity in Grand County.
Darrin Peppard, superintendent of West Grand School District, said childcare plays a big role in recruitment and retention of teachers and the lack of childcare in the area was diminishing the district’s ability to attract and keep good staff.
The new daycare center, which will be located in the current Colorado State Patrol office on the West Grand Elementary and Middle School campus, will offer eight to 15 spots for infants and children, ages six weeks to three years. Rhonda Ilgner, a current first grade teacher for West Grand, will be the director.
“We had been discussing at length opening an early childhood center, primarily because we don’t want to lose our young teachers because there’s no daycare for them,” Peppard said.
Currently in Kremmling, there are only two spots for children under two, according to Grand Beginnings, an early childhood nonprofit. Across the county, there is only enough capacity for 40 percent of children aged zero to five.
“Just on our staff alone we have three or four (staff members) who have children under the age of two, so we really felt it was important to be hitting those early years,” Peppard said.
Peppard said the school started having conversations about potentially offering daycare in Kremmling last August when one of the two providers in town closed their doors. At the time, there were at least two teachers who had been counting on those spots.
So the district applied for a Colorado Department of Education grant for teacher retention to fund the daycare center and was awarded around $100,000 per year for three years to run the facility.
The increased childcare capacity will be a “community changer,” explained Maegan Lokteff, executive director of Grand Beginnings. Since around 85 to 90 percent of families in Grand County have all available adults in the workforce, childcare generates significant economic impact.
“(Childcare) is part of what creates a healthy and vibrant community and an economically sustainable community,” Lokteff said. “Childcare really supports those families that are coming here in the long-term.”
According to Peppard, the daycare also hopes to provide half-day daycare to preschool-aged children through a partnership with the Kremmling Preschool, which is a half-day program.
While tuition rates are still being discussed, Peppard said they want to make rates affordable. He added that school district staff will get priority at the daycare and likely, a discount on tuition.
“We want it to be as affordable as possible, especially for our teachers,” he said. “My hope is that it’s a break-even proposition.”
Aside from helping West Grand recruit teachers, the daycare center will also be addressing the need to recruit childcare providers by offering West Grand High School students the opportunity to get hands-on experience that they can use to get childcare certifications.
Peppard explained that for the first year, students will likely have the opportunity to be a teacher’s aide at the daycare while taking online classes toward a certification. Eventually, the district hopes to develop a series of three classes, including an introduction class and more advanced classes, that would allow students to graduate with a childcare certification.
This approach makes the daycare center more sustainable and it helps tackle multiple issues within the community, Lokteff said.
“I think what’s really amazing about the Kremmling program is the school district’s willingness to invest in this program for all of the numerous benefits it’s going to bring to them, (…) as well as investing in their high school students and in that training that they can then get from participating in this program and coming out of school with professional certifications.”
West Grand is planning to remodel the daycare facility this summer and open the center at the start of the next school year.
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