Carbondale preschool raising money for move |

Carbondale preschool raising money for move

Leo Turner, 3, plays on the balancing board with his teacher Debbie Condello at the Children's Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale. Condello is also director of the school, which is raising money to move to a new location in downtown Carbondale this summer.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent |


Anyone interested in donating to the Children’s Rocky Mountain School effort should visit, or call 970-963-2524.

One of the oldest preschool programs in Carbondale must leave its home of 27 years and must raise about $150,000 over the next two months to make its new downtown location a reality.

The Children’s Rocky Mountain School, a preschool for children ages 3 to 5, was begun in 1989 in a building that used to be the 1950s-era sheep shed on the ranch that eventually became Colorado Rocky Mountain School just west of Carbondale.

Originally part of the independent college preparatory school program, the preschool became its own nonprofit entity in 1998 but has remained on the CRMS campus.

Two years ago, CRMS officials informed the preschool that it would need to move. Its lease is up in June.

The decision was partly because CRMS would eventually like to do something else with the preschool site but also because the needs of the preschool have outgrown the old building, said CRMS Head of School Jeff Leahy, who used to serve on the preschool’s board.

“The space is really inadequate for their programming and goals,” Leahy said of the hodge-podge building that’s known on campus as “Sheepy Hollow.”

“It’s been great to have the preschool on our campus, and I’m excited about the location they’ve found,” he said. “We’re hoping it all goes well for them.”

Debbie Condello, founding director and teacher at Children’s Rocky Mountain School, said the preschool has secured property just east of the new Marble Distilling Co. on East Main Street in Carbondale as a new location.

Recently, the school was awarded a $50,000 grant from the Temple Hoyne Buell Foundation in Denver to help with the renovations that will be needed to convert what’s now a residence into a preschool building.

The operation will need to raise another $150,000 over the next couple of months to address a variety of code and handicapped-access issues, she said. In addition to a variety of fundraisers, the school is turning to the larger community for donations.

The preschool’s approach to early childhood education is inspired by the Reggio model that was developed in Italy after World War II, but with elements of the Waldorf and Montessori philosophies as well, Condello said.

“One of the big things we emphasize is social emotional development by being in and part of a group, but also allowing children to learn at their own pace,” she said.

Children keep portfolios of their work to share with parents, and parents in turn are provided with different ways of asking questions of and engaging their children at home.

A low student-to-teacher ratio of 6-to-1 is also a major aspect of the school’s philosophy.

The new downtown location will be ideal for incorporating some of the established programs, such as the school’s cross country ski outings, and to add new ones.

“We will have more space and more visibility by being in the center of town, close to the library and the Clay Center and the other schools,” Condello said.

Since its inception, the preschool has had a mentoring program with CRMS students, many of whom have gone on to be teachers themselves, she said.

She looks forward to continuing that relationship with CRMS, and possibly expanding it to other high school students in Carbondale.

Children’s Rocky Mountain School now serves 34 families, with a waiting list of more than 20 for the 2016-17 school year. The school takes a break during the summer, when it hopes to be moving into its new facility.

“There is definitely a desperate need for preschool and child-care options in the area to meet the demands of working families,” Condello said.

Jonathan Godes, director of the Early Childhood Network based in Glenwood Springs, agreed about the need for more and continued preschool options in the Roaring Fork Valley.

“The biggest need by far is for infant and toddler care, but there is a need throughout the valley for quality preschool programs as well,” Godes said.

Even though the area from Glenwood Springs to Basalt has 35 preschool and child-care centers and home-based programs, wait lists of more than 100 are common, he said.

Blue Lake Preschool in El Jebel, which just opened a second location on Eighth Street in Carbondale, still maintains a wait list of more than 170.

“That’s probably outside the norm, but every good program in the valley has a very lengthy wait list,” Godes said.

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