After several weeks of talks, the city of Aspen and the taxpayer-funded Yellow Brick child care centers could be a little closer in negotiating lease terms, which could affect nearly 100 families who rely on child care. subsidized.
Two providers, Playgroup Aspen and Aspen Mountain Tots, announced last month that they would go out of business if the city changed their rental terms from four days a week to five in a bid to increase childcare capacity.
That was decided last year by the Kids First Advisory Council, following guidance from Aspen City Council, which made increasing childcare capacity one of its priorities. .
And using a city-owned building to provide childcare for a full workweek is just one way to capitalize on capacity, along with the construction of new facilities at Colorado Mountain College and the third phase of the Burlingame Ranch housing development across from Buttermilk Mountain.
Council member Rachel Richards said during Monday’s business session during a council update that child care classrooms at Yellow Brick, located in the West End neighborhood of Aspen, should be full all the time, just like new ones once they are built.
“I think we’re looking at the use of this public asset, which I randomly guess is probably close to $5 million in investment, if not more, between security, boilers, roofing, staff and everything. the rest, re-carpeting – we’ve invested a lot of money into making it a wonderful facility for wonderful children,” she said. “I wish I had as many wonderful children who could benefit from this as possible.”
When told of the stipulation of operating five days instead of four, which would be consolidated into leases taking effect in 2023, the owners of both providers said it would not be financially feasible for their operations. They said they would close.
Since those announcements, Aspen City Council members have been inundated with emails and phone calls from concerned citizens and parents worried about how they might work without daycare.
In the meantime, city officials, Kids First advisory board members and child care providers have been negotiating.
“There have been a number of suggestions that have come to us, and they are all being considered,” Mayor Torre said.
Deputy city manager Diane Foster said the providers will speak to the Kids First advisory board on Feb. 4 about the requested lease changes.
“We are working to keep current suppliers,” she told the council on Monday. “They write down what they’d like to see, and I’m working with (Kids First director Shirley Ritter), as well as our two board co-chairs.”
Council member Ward Hauenstein said that ideally he would like to see child care offered at the Yellow Brick seven days a week, and he applauded the advisory council for making the difficult decision to require that providers operate five days a week.
“I think it’s good to increase capacity by building more but using the space we have. … There’s no one providing childcare on the weekends, and I think we have a workforce that works Saturdays and Sundays,” he said.
Ritter reported that the results of a survey last summer about child care on the city’s online outreach platform, which was modified and used in the towns of Snowmass Village and Basalt, 52% of the 451 respondents prefer full-time care five days a week and 38% prefer full days but less than five days a week.
The biggest barriers for respondents were lack of space, especially for infants and toddlers, and cost, followed by less than ideal hours and location.
Kids First Advisory Board co-chair Stefan Reveal told the board that there is a severe shortage of places for infants, which is a major reason why many families are moving and not staying on hand- of local work.
“I’m asking you as City Council to keep your eye on the ball, and the ball is that 32 baby places is not enough, and all the little yellow brick tweaks won’t allow us to significantly improve our numbers,” Reveal said.
Infant spaces are set to increase by almost 20% as the city moves closer to offering eight of them at CMC.
The classroom, provided by CMC, is being renovated to accommodate a nursery for infants and is expected to be operational this winter, once an operator has been found.
Just up Highway 82 at Burlingame Ranch, a contract for a design team to conceptualize a new daycare will go to council for approval next month.
It is envisioned to be an 8,345 square foot, two-level daycare that can accommodate 70 children, including infants, toddlers and preschoolers.
The cost estimate is around $8 million, and the city is reportedly seeking partners and grants to offset some of the cost.
Council member John Doyle said he was impressed with all the work done so far on the child care front.
“I’m glad we’re moving forward what feels like quite quickly,” he said. “It was only last summer that we made this one of our top three priorities, so thanks to the staff, thanks to Kids First, and I really think we’re on the right track here.”