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Changes in leadership, philosophy ahead for Little Red Schoolhouse

Snowmass child care center to be helmed by Woody Creek Kids leader Christina Holloway

Woody Creek Kids’ owner and director Christina Holloway sleds down a hill with Spencer Britt, 4, next to the child care center on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

The Little Red Schoolhouse will soon have a new leader in Christina Holloway, a longtime local child care provider who also is the owner and director of Woody Creek Kids, Holloway confirmed in a phone call on Dec. 6.

Holloway will take the reins from Robin Sinclair, the current director of the Little Red Schoolhouse, who Holloway has known for years. (The two both attended Aspen High School.)

“She’s been really welcoming and helpful and thoughtful, and I’m really grateful for that,” Holloway said. Sinclair did not respond to a phone call and text request for comment.



Holloway had been looking for months for the opportunity to expand the child care capacity of her business and saw an opportunity to do so at the Little Red Schoolhouse, which is not currently at full enrollment, she said.

“Mainly I want to create a large community,” Holloway said. “I don’t want it to be Little Red Schoolhouse and Woody Creek Kids — I want us to be one family.”




UNDER A NEW UMBRELLA

Woody Creek Kids’ director and owner Christina Holloway at the child care center in Woody Creek on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Holloway brings with her more than two decades of experience in child care and has a bachelor’s degree in child development and family studies.

She started working at the Early Learning Center in the Yellow Brick Building shortly after graduating Aspen High School in 1997 and later did stints at the helm of a child care service for Aspen Skiing Co. employees, the nonprofit Roaring Fork Kids, the child care center Aspen Mountain Tots and Aspen School District’s Cottage Preschool before opening Woody Creek Kids in the building of the former Aspen Community Preschool in 2016.

She intends to operate the Snowmass Village child care center “under the Woody Creek Kids umbrella,” which she runs as an incorporated for-profit business.

“I think that, you know, this business isn’t a money making business, so even though I’m a for-profit (business), it’s my livelihood. … If you have your program full and you work hard, then you can make a living, but it’s not like you’re making millions,” Holloway said.

The move to for-profit ownership will mark a change from the way the Little Red Schoolhouse has historically operated as a nonprofit entity with a 501(c)3 designation. The center has been tax-exempt since 1984, according to ProPublica’s online database.

Kevin Giles, who sits on the board that oversees the nonprofit, said that the child care center is not itself converting to a for-profit business but the nonprofit legal entity that is the Little Red Schoolhouse could ultimately dissolve as it becomes part of the Woody Creek Kids umbrella.

Giles said in a Dec. 6 phone call that he did not yet know when that dissolution would occur; it could happen around the new year or could happen later down the road. The board would no longer exist at that point because the legal entity that it oversees also would no longer exist, according to Giles.

“ONE BIG COMMUNITY”

Four of the six current Little Red Schoolhouse staffers are slated to stay on (two have decided to look for something a bit closer to where they live downvalley) and Holloway will bring two of her Woody Creek Kids employees to the Little Red Schoolhouse so she can operate at licensed capacity, she said; she’s also looking to hire “at least one full time person, if not two,” and will train the right candidate for the position.

“I’ll have it structured where we’re … utilizing every staff member to 100% of our potential, yes, and then I will be going back and forth from Woody Creek to Snowmass to continue to teach them about my philosophy of early childhood education,” Holloway said.

She aims to incorporate the Reggio Emilia Approach currently in place at Woody Creek Kids at the Little Red Schoolhouse, too. The philosophy focuses on self-directed experiential learning; Holloway said it’s similar to the approach of a Montessori School.

Holloway intends to host an open house on Jan. 3 after the Little Red Schoolhouse’s brief holiday break and invite families from Woody Creek Kids and the Little Red Schoolhouse as well as representatives from the town of Snowmass Village and Aspen’s early childhood resource center Kids First.

“I want to make it so it’s just one big community where we’re supporting one another, raising these little people and our next generation and doing our best by them,” Holloway said.

FINESSING FEASIBILITY

Town Councilman and architect Tom Fridstein — who, prior to joining the council, worked closely with the Little Red Schoolhouse on designs and plans for expanding the facilities there — said he was “very optimistic” about the future of the child care center.

“(Holloway is) experienced, she knows what she’s getting into and I think a larger entity of that school and this school is a good thing, because we’re really serving the whole upper valley community but in Snowmass (child care is) sorely lacking,” Fridstein said.

School leaders have had their eyes on expansion of the Little Red Schoolhouse for years, but challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic meant progress “ground to a halt” in 2020, Fridstein said.

It started picking up speed again earlier this year after the Snowmass Village Town Council made exploring the potential for an “improved and enlarged” center one of their strategic goals.

Council also allocated $70,000 earlier this year for consultants to conduct a needs assessment of child care and a feasibility study of expansion of the Little Red Schoolhouse.

The study includes interviews with stakeholders, site evaluation, budget development and administrative guidance. It was already underway as of mid-November and is expected to wrap up in March, according to a presentation to council on Nov. 15 by consultants Andrew Brodsky, president of Brodsky Research and Consulting, and S. Cody Carter Belzley, the founder and CEO of Common Good Consulting.

Holloway has already spoken to officials at the town and found that they have been “very supportive,” she said.

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