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Rifle day care faces financial crisis

Mike McKibbinRifle CorrespondentGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

RIFLE, Colorado – Without Summit Preschool and Childcare Center in Rifle, Jerry Ryan and Amanda Byers both think they would have to quit their jobs to care for their children.The possibility of the 155-student center closing is real, said administrator Lori Wagner, if she doesn’t come up with a half million dollars by Aug. 1. That’s the closing date the center has on the former Emily Griffith Center north of Rifle, which would be the day-care center’s new home for many years to come, Wagner said.The lease the center has with the Fellowship of the Rockies Church on Railroad Avenue will not be renewed when it expires at the end of October, she said.Ryan, a single father to three girls between 4 and 7 years of age in Parachute, said Summit accepted his daughters after the Mount Callahan Day Care Center in Parachute closed earlier this year.”There is no other place I can put all three girls,” Ryan said. “If Summit has to close, I’d have to find three different day cares, and I wouldn’t be able to work full time like I do now. And my cost would triple, so I wouldn’t be able to afford it.”Byers has enrolled two of her children in Summit for the last four years.”If this day care closes, I’d probably have to quit work,” she said. “It’s nice to have a place where I can leave the kids for five or six hours a day and they’re safe and cared for, they’re fed and they learn.”A third parent, Gail Guentzel of Rifle, enrolled her 7-year-old daughter last summer.”It’s amazing what they do,” she said of the daily activities. “They go swimming three times a week, they go to the library, gymnastics, bowling and they do crafts. My daughter always comes home dirty, tired and happy.”Guentzel said she had “been through the ringer” finding good day care.”To have 155 children displaced would wreak havoc on this community,” she said. “I couldn’t work, and without two incomes, I don’t think we could keep our house.”Guentzel said she had personally donated $1,000 to help Wagner and Summit and had written letters to U.S. Sens. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., and Wayne Allard, R-Colo., to try to help.Wagner said while she had received a $3 million loan guarantee to help purchase the Emily Griffith 20,000-square-foot building and surrounding five acres, banks had been reluctant to lower their $500,000 down payment cost on a mortgage. “I don’t know if it’s just worries about the economy or what,” she said.Summit already has a waiting list of 22 families, a dozen of them that already have children enrolled, she said.Wagner said she doesn’t think banks are hesitant due to rumors of inadequate care at Summit that she believes were started by disgruntled parents whom she had to take to small claims court over unpaid bills.”The larger any operation is, the more complaints you’re going to get,” she said. “We try to do our best, and I have social services workers here every day, picking up their own kids or kids in social services. Many of our parents work at the hospital and the police department, too. So if we were doing anything wrong, we’d be shut down by now.”Summit instructors are now trained through the Quali-Star program and Kids First, Wagner said, which provides the most training available for day-care centers.Wagner is also raising funds for the relocation through a “Kids Rock” program, where those who donate between $1,000 to $5,000 will have a brick engraved with their name installed in the walkway to the new center. The center will also need a fire sprinkler system, remodeling to satisfy state licensing standards, a city of Rifle sewer tap and an elevator, Wagner said. Those will cost approximately another $35,300, she said.Wagner said she and her husband opened Summit in 2002 with no outside financial support and 35 children enrolled.”We dreamt this up, and I can’t see doing anything else for the rest of my life,” she said. “If we don’t make it, I’ll find something else, but it’ll be real sad for the children.”Ryan planned to move from Parachute to Rifle to be closer to Summit.”They’re more than a beacon of hope to single parents like me,” he said.Contact Mike McKibbin: 384-9170mmckibbin@citizentelegram.com


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