Garfield Re-2 goes after pre-school grant funding

Keeping costs affordable while enhancing professional development for early childhood programs have prompted the Garfield Re-2 School District to apply for significant grant funding.

Garfield Re-2 Early Childhood Coordinator Emily Kielmyer proposed to school board members on Feb. 23 an opportunity to apply for a $180,000 non-competitive grant through the Colorado Office of Early Childhood.

The funds would support a number of childhood services efforts on the district’s radar, Kielmyer said. This includes maintaining family tuition rates, expanding tuition-free options and bolstering professional development opportunities for staff.

“We need to think about our early childhood workforce,” she said. “Because we all know how critical our workforce is.”

The district currently has six preschool programs — one for each elementary school. Each individual program has two classrooms, while 256 preschoolers ages 3-4 are enrolled in the district.

The district employs 38 early childhood development staff.

Families currently pay $250 per month for students enrolled for four half-days per week, Kielmyer said. For students enrolled in four, 6-hour days per week, families pay $500 per month.

Tuition rates have not been increased for the past 15 years, Kielmyer said.

Being it’s a non-competitive grant, the likelihood of receiving the $180,000 is high, Kielmyer. Roughly $30,000 would be allocated toward each district preschool program.

Garfield Re-2 Curriculum, Assessment and Instruction Director Julie Knowles said the funds are made possible by stimulus funds spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think one of the things that the pandemic taught everybody is how critical childcare is for working families,” she said. “If childcare shuts down, our economy comes to a halt because people can’t work.”

Knowles also suggested the possibility of using funds to increase pay scales rates on the district’s salary schedule. Early childhood paraprofessionals, which are “classified” employees, make $16.50 an hour.

Paraprofessionals must meet certain credentialing requirements, and the district currently employs one teacher per eight students.

“We have excellent teachers, and we know it prepares kids for kindergarten,” Knowles said. “We also know that the research shows, nationally and has for many years, for every dollar you spend on early childhood, you save between $7 and $11 and, later on, in reduced special education costs, reduced juvenile diversion, reduced prison.”

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or

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