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Childcare center no more

Naomi Havlen

The Little Feet Day Care Center will not be replaced by another childcare provider, at least not in the immediate future.

According to Pitkin County community relations director Nan Sundeen, the space once occupied by Little Feet is being leased to Aspen Valley Hospital for 18 months while the county decides what to do with the former childcare site.

Little Feet was a tenant in the county-owned Michael W. Schultz Health and Human Services building on Castle Creek Road, just across the parking lot from Aspen Valley Hospital. It closed in late February due to financial difficulties.

According to Sundeen, the Board of County Commissioners was overwhelmed with unsolicited requests to lease the 3,600-square-foot space. Interested organizations included YouthZone, Roaring Fork Legal Services, the Sober House and Aspen Valley Hospital.

The board discussed its options and ultimately decided to temporarily lease 3,200 square feet to AVH, and the remaining space to the Aspen Counseling Center for a treatment program conference room.

Childcare advocates are concerned that replacing Little Feet with something other than a childcare center will leave families in the lurch.

Shirley Ritter, director of Kids First, a city department that provides funds to nonprofit childcare providers, has expressed her concern to the county.

“We wrote a letter saying that we’re disappointed they have not dedicated that space for childcare,” she said. “They have made space available for 20 years in county buildings for childcare. My concern is that this really leaves just two centers in the county that serve infants, and a few home providers.”

Ritter estimates there are now just 16 licensed spaces for infants in Pitkin County – although more than 16 infants are enrolled in childcare since many attend only a few days a week. She estimates there is now space for 40 toddlers in the county.

“I feel strongly that the people losing out with this are those that have babies now, or are going to very soon,” she said. “They call us to find spaces, and in 18 months when they have a 18-month-old, they won’t have a space.”

Sundeen emphasized, however, that childcare is high on the county’s list of considerations for the future of the space. During the next 18 months the county will investigate the valley’s needs to determine which organization should be given a long-term lease.

“We’re really excited to go find out what the needs are, and what the community wants,” she said. “The BOCC has said it’s their priority to put health and human services out there if that’s what the demand is. As we explore this over the next 18 months, we’ll be able to recommend more to them.”

In the meantime, Aspen Valley Hospital will lease the space for $18.50 per square foot per year, or close to $90,000 for the lease term. John Schied, who works in engineering at AVH, said the hospital must finalize the lease before determining what will be moved into the space.

“It might be general office functions,” he said. “Due to the overcrowding at the hospital, we’re trying to take advantage of this fantastic opportunity that the county is generously offering us.”

Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com


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