Nonprofit Carbondale preschool seeks donations to expand new facility | PostIndependent.com
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Nonprofit Carbondale preschool seeks donations to expand new facility

Little Blue Preschool teacher Brynlee Elswick gives the ready-set-go for children in the preschool-age class to run down the grass mound that’s in the outdoor play area at the school’s new location at 55 N. Seventh St. in Carbondale on Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021.
John Stroud/Post Independent

A renovated child day care in Carbondale could double its capacity in the near future with support from the community.

Little Blue Preschool, a nonprofit child care facility and sister program to the El Jebel-based Blue Lake Preschool, moved into a remodeled residence at 55 N. Seventh St. in July, and the organization is asking for donations to help fund the second phase of remodeling, scholarships and teacher retention programs, said Kathryn Sansone, who is working with the preschool to promote the fundraising initiative.

Sansone said the preschool is looking to raise about $1.5 million during the next three years, and as of Wednesday, she said they had reached close to half their goal with the help of large donations from Alpine Bank, Valley View Hospital and the Aspen Skiing Co.



Blue Lake and Little Blue Preschools Director Michelle Oger said the child care program began in El Jebel as part of the Blue Lake housing development in 1993. In 2000, Blue Lake Preschool moved to a nonprofit model, providing the ability to fund raise and apply for grant funding.

“We were licensed for 31 kids a day, ages 1-5, at Blue Lake in January 2002,” Oger said. “Now we’re licensed for 134 at Blue Lake and 38 kids at Little Blue, ages 6 weeks to 10 years old.”



Little Blue opened in a rental home on Carbondale’s Eighth Street in 2015, but after the facility’s three-year lease was up, the landowners moved to a month-to-month format. Oger said that created a sense of insecurity for the preschool’s board of directors, which is filled by a combination of parents with children enrolled in the program and community members.

Little Blue Preschool teacher Michelle Boyle reads and interacts with children in the toddler class at the school’s new facility at 55 N. Seventh St. in Carbondale on Wednesday, Sept. 29.
John Stroud/Post Independent

After a three-year search, the organization purchased the Seventh Street location with a construction loan, Sansone said.

“On Friday (Oct. 1), the loan will switch over to a standard mortgage, with the initial renovations done,” she said. “So that’s why we chose that day to host our grand opening and kick off this fundraising initiative.”

Little Blue’s new home cost about $1.3 million, but Sansone said the fundraiser money wouldn’t be used to pay the entirety of the loan. About $500,000 of the donations are slated to be used to build additional school rooms at the facility, increasing capacity by about 45 students a day.

Another $250,000 could go to teacher retention programs, including efforts to keep pay rates competitive and provide scholarships for underprivileged families, Sansone said.

“Keeping good, consistent teachers is not only difficult in this valley, but it’s incredibly important for our kids’ learning and development,” she said.

The preschools currently have 214 students enrolled, though few of those students attend every day, Oger said.

“From Glenwood to Aspen, and likely beyond, there’s just not enough child care options,” she said, adding all three of her own children went through the program. “We see a lot of kids who might be with us two days a week, then with a grandma another day or family friends and finish out the week at an unlicensed care provider in someone’s home.”

But even with hundreds of students enrolled, Oger said the preschools’ waiting list is more than 200 families long, some of whom might wait years before receiving a preschool slot.

“We get dozens of calls every week about availability,” she said. “Some people move to the valley thinking they will be able to find care immediately with no idea of how few options there are here.”

Sansone, who’s kindergarten-aged son is enrolled in the program, said increasing Little Blue’s capacity will go a long way toward addressing some of the valley’s child care challenges.

“Michelle and her team have done a very good job of stretching every dollar they have, so I know these funds will be put to good use,” she said. “As a parent, I am extremely thankful for how good Michelle and her team are.”

For more information about Blue Lake and Little Blue Preschools and their fundraising initiative, go to BlueLakePreschool.org.

Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at ifredregill@postindependent.com.


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