Parents face child care crisis in western Garfield County |

Parents face child care crisis in western Garfield County

John GardnerPost Independent StaffGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

PARACHUTE, Colorado Ashley Thompson is stuck in a tight spot. Both she and her husband, Chad, work full-time jobs Ashley in Rifle and Chad in Glenwood Springs. But both of her kids are enrolled at the Mount Callahan Day Care Program, which is currently run by the Garfield School District 16.That program is ending on May 30, leaving the Thompsons in a tight spot.We were told that we would be taken care of, Thompson said.Thompsons 8-year-old son attends Mt. Callahan before and after school along with Thompsons 5-year-old, who is in preschool for half of the day. The kids are there until she picks them up after she gets off work.Its a common story, two working parents and the struggle to find day care for their children. Thompson said she will need day care for her two kids for at least another four years, until her oldest son is 12. When Mt. Callahan closes, she and several other parents in the area will have to find somewhere else for their kids to go. The major problem is the limited number of day-care providers in Parachute or Battlement Mesa. Flipping through the Yellow pages of the DEX phone book reveals no child care facilities in Parachute or Battlement Mesa.We have nothing, Thompson said. All the day cares Ive looked at, at least the affordable ones, are packed.Thompson said she knows of a couple home day cares, but said that they are full. Shes looked in Rifle with no luck, either.Thompson and other parents are upset with District 16 for closing the day care program, but according to District 16 Superintendent Steven McKee, it was never the districts intention for the program to be a long-term commitment.We never intended on making it a permanent option, McKee said. We would have loved to keep the program going. We didnt get into it to make money, but the district ended up losing money and its just not feasible.The program has been available to the public since around 2002 when construction of the new Grand Valley High School was complete and the district received grants to renovate the old high school facility to house such programs like Head Start and the preschool classes. At that time, the day care program was contracted out to a private party with the district renting the space for $100 a month.The school did not want to run the day care program. The only connection (District 16) had was the facility was on the campus, McKee said. We had no ownership of the program, but a lot of people thought it was our program because it was on our grounds.But the district did take over operations of the program last July after then-director Amber Scott resigned. District administrators decided to keep the program running under their own direction until renovations at the new Center for Family Learning is complete in late fall of 2008. But the district recently made the decision to end day care services at the end of the school year because it doesnt have the funding to keep it open.Financially it wasnt feasible for the district to continue with the program, McKee said.Currently, Mt. Callahan has between 65 and 70 enrolled kids from 6 months to 12 years of age. Closing the facility will leave those families to find other means of day care that Thompson and others say isnt available.Leah Frink, director of the Mt. Callahan program, has two young ones in the day care as well. She doesnt know what shes going to do when it closes.I think its sad. I think that closing the program isnt the best interest for the kids, Frink said. Im not sure what Im going to do, I dont know what my options are.According to Garfield County Department of Human Services Childcare Program manager Dana Damm, there are six home care providers in the Battlement Mesa and Parachute areas. However, Damm said that most are licensed for only six kids up to age 6 during the day, plus two additional school aged students before and after school hours.Really, in all of Garfield County, but really more in the western part of the county, we do have a child care crisis, Damm said.Damm said that she has had an increase in people interested in applying for child care licenses. But she said that the need is still greater than the interest she has seen.We are always looking for anyone who is interested in becoming licensed, Damm said.McKee has met with some leaders of local churches to see if some kind of alternative can be created for the displaced families.Im trying to do the best I can to create a pool of potential programs in the community, McKee said. We know how much of a need for child care there is here and we are going to do everything we can to help them get some type of day care.Contact John Gardner: 384-9114jgardner@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

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