TELLURIDE – Paying for childcare is tough for just about any working parent.
But it’s also tough for childcare providers, as well, and particularly in the Telluride region, where a lack of suitable, permanent space and high rents make it difficult for such businesses to succeed.
And while there is no simple solution to Telluride’s childcare dilemma, the Town of Telluride, San Miguel County and Bright Futures for Early Childhood and Families are doing their best to add a permanent, affordable childcare facility at the recently developed Gold Run affordable housing project east of town that would service up to 32 working-class families. But first, Bright Futures is tasked with raising $150,000 to construct the new building.
“They’re ready to get the loan and put the shovel in the ground, as soon as we raise the money,” says Cathy James, executive director of Bright Futures, whose mission is to deliver coordinated services and systems to improve quality, accessibility and affordability of early child development for children and their families in San Miguel, Ouray, and West Montrose Counties.
James is quick to emphasize that the Gold Run facility is meant to house one of Telluride’s existing childcare centers. With almost 100 kids entering kindergarten this school year, for the first time in years there are spaces available for toddlers and preschoolers, she says. Availability is also attributed to people leaving town in 2009 due to the economic downturn, and families waiting to have new babies.
“In three years we’re going to have another boom, if people stay in town,” says James. But for now, rather than adding a new facility into the mix, Bright Futures will help an existing Telluride childcare center keep its doors open.
“The only place guaranteed to be a preschool forever is Rainbow,” because they own their building, she says. By contrast, Toddler Town is housed in a building that is currently for sale, leaving them in an insecure position. Without actually owning their buildings, many of Telluride’s childcare centers will always be subject potentially losing their homes.
From the beginning, a primary component of the Gold Run project was to provide a neighborhood early education/childcare facility on one of its lots. And a condition of the town and county receiving grant money for construction of that project is that it will always be used as a childcare/educational center.
The town and county ultimately donated lot 3, the westernmost lot, for the project and then, in fall of 2008, directed the Gold Run Committee to come up with a design and cost estimate for the facility. The town’s Historic and Architectural Review Commission approved the subsequent design in 2010, and then Bright Futures was asked to perform a capital campaign to raise the $150,000 required to construct the building.
Plans include a 1,100 square-foot finished interior space, 1,161 square feet of outdoor deck and yard space, an unfinished basement for storage, and four parking spaces. A drop-off and pick-up area will be located adjacent to the alley, on the south side of the building.
With “free land to build the building, the more money we raise, the less mortgage” there will be, and the more affordable tuition will be, says James. Since the facility operator will be responsible for debt service, operation and maintenance costs, securing a low mortgage is an identified goal.
The Gold Run Committee has a projected target lease rate of $1,400-$1,500 a month, which would service a $250,00 loan. The loan, combined with $150,000 raised by Bright Futures, would leave a projected $135,000 gap to be subsidized by the town and county.
According to James, to date Bright Futures has secured $80,000 for the project, thanks to grants from the Telluride Foundation, Just For Kids Foundation, and a promise from the Faraway Foundation. They have also written grants to El Pomar Foundation, Temple Hoyne Buell Foundation and Boettcher Foundation.
Individual donations are sought as well, to which end they have planned an ice cream social at the Gold Run childcare site for Tuesday, Aug. 16, from 4:30 to 7 p.m. The event is meant to be a kick off party that will introduce the project to the public. Along with free ice cream, there will also be fun activities for kids.
James, who herself lives at the east end of Telluride, is excited that the new childcare facility will be connected to the Gold Run housing project, where she says the recent construction of 18 homes for working families has revamped the neighborhood.
“That whole side of town is so lively now,” with kids and strollers everywhere.
Bright Futures has set a Jan. 1 deadline to meet their fundraising goal. Once funding is secure, they will “put it out to all existing” Telluride childcare centers to move into the Gold Run facility, says James. Whoever moves in must be licensed and meet all state quality standards, and will be expected to care for up to 15 children, ages 3-5, from working-class families.
For more information and to see plans for the Gold Run childcare facility, attend the Aug. 16 ice cream social at E. Colorado Ave. and Columbine, or contact Bright Futures at 728-5613.
“Stop on down between 4:30 and 7,” says James.