Basalt’s Growing Years childcare will boost capacity from 25 to 62 kids | AspenTimes.com

Basalt’s Growing Years childcare will boost capacity from 25 to 62 kids

After trying to secure a location for the past decade, the Growing Years nonprofit child care in Basalt has landed a space that will allow it to more than double its capacity.

Growing Years worked with the town of Basalt and the Roaring Fork School District to secure three classrooms in the old red-brick school building on the Basalt Elementary School Campus. Growing Years, founded 26 years ago, will increase its capacity from 25 to 62 children, said Adele Matthee, Growing Years' director for 10 years.

In addition, the expansion will allow Growing Years to offer infant care, which is particularly in high demand.

"We already have five babies on that wait list," Matthee said, noting that the babies are unborn but the parents anticipate the need.

Study after study over the past 25 years has shown there is a shortage of child care in much of the Roaring Fork Valley. Growing Years had a wait list with 50 children.

Basalt formed a committee to study how to help answer the demand and budgeted $75,000 for child care issues this year.

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"Endured and persevered"

Cara Borchers, a member of Growing Years' board of directors for the past nine years, said the expansion will help the small program become better-known.

"No one recognizes our name, but when we say the little trailer near the tennis courts, they say, 'Oh, yeah,'" she said.

Growing Years has "endured and persevered" for at least 11 years despite not having a secure space, Borchers added. It operates out of a modular unit that sits on the elementary and middle school campus. It bought the modular unit but rents the space from the school district, and the site was always somewhat up on the air, forcing the nonprofit to look for a permanent site.

"In my nine years on the board, we've tried over 12 locations," Borchers said.

The ability to use space in the old red-brick building is pivotal, she said. The school district also agreed to extend the lease for the land it uses for the modular for another three years. The modular will be remodeled and used for the infant care.

"We really wanted to stay in the town of Basalt," Matthee said.

Town will lease space

The town government will lease three classrooms and office space in the red-brick building and sublease to Growing Years, according to Town Manager Mike Scanlon. The arrangement was negotiated when the school district approached voters in November for approval of a bond issue to raise funds for capital improvements, he said.

The town's agreement with the school district proposed the space be rented for $12 per square foot, but no lease has been signed.

The town intends to lease the space to Growing Years at a favorable rate so that it can keep costs low for midvalley families, Scanlon said. If all goes as planned, Growing Years will just have to cover its operational expenses at the red brick, according to Scanlon.

He said the town also will explore providing funds to help Growing Years equip the classrooms.

Matthee said the plan is to have the classrooms ready for child care for children ages 2 through 5 by the time school starts in August. The goal is to finish remodeling the modular for infant care — 6 weeks to 2 years old — by November.

Growing Years raising funds

Borchers said Growing Years will launch a capital campaign to undertake the expansion and remodeling and to help with the doubling of its staff that will be required.

"We need at least $100,000, and more would definitely benefit the program," she said.

There will soon be a link set up on Growing Years' website at http://www.growing​yearsbasalt.com where supporters can make donations. Contributions also can be mailed to the nonprofit at 151 School St., Basalt, CO 81621.

Scanlon said Basalt intends to help Growing Years with its capital expenses. Borchers said Shirley Ritter, director of Kids First, an Aspen-based child care organization, also has been supportive of securing a home for Growing Years. Those two organizations could help Growing Years get off to a good start with its capital campaign.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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