Snowmass plans overhaul for aging Little Red Schoolhouse facility
Council members hope renovation, expansion will attract more teachers and offer relief to parents
The Little Red Schoolhouse in Snowmass Village is looking to double its student capacity after 2025 to offer much-needed child care in the Roaring Fork Valley.
The Snowmass Village Town Council reviewed several site plans for the schoolhouse expansion during a meeting on Monday and directed the town and the Denver-based architecture firm Alan Ford Architects to move forward with a two-story building to house five classrooms. Expanding the schoolhouse’s operations has been a priority of the Town Council since 2021. The building plan, which Project Manager Tyler Michieli hopes to finalize by January, will accommodate up to 74 students from infants to pre-kindergarten.
Council members hope the renovation and expansion of the aging facility will attract more teachers and offer relief to parents who have struggled to find child care for their children in the valley. Waitlists for some child care facilities in the area can reach 100 people long.
“I’m very strongly in favor of building this because I think if we build it they will come,” said Council member Tom Fridstein. “I think we have suffered with a very inadequate facility for a long time; it’s very hard to attract people there as directors, as teachers, as whatever, and it’s just long past its time, so I think this is a great move.”
But council members also worried that without providing affordable housing to new teachers, the expansion of the Little Red Schoolhouse would be futile.
Town Manager Clint Kinney said the architects toyed with the idea of building housing for teachers on schoolhouse site, but there wasn’t enough space on the property for it. Because the building plans are so new, council members agreed they would address employee housing once the plans were more concrete.
“We’re at square one here,” he said. “We wanted to get you guys in very early in this process, and so there’s lots of details to come with a lot of these decisions.”
The 7,500-square-foot project will cost about $8 million and will be funded from the town’s unreserved fund balance in the 2025 budget. Council members were presented with two design options – one that would construct a two-story building on the south hill behind the schoolhouse building and one that would construct a one-story building to the east of the schoolhouse. The council agreed to move forward with the two-story building to maximize existing playground space for children.
Construction would begin in 2025 and would give the Town Council time to tweak certain aspects and determine what types of operating facilities it wants to explore for the children while construction is underway, Michieli said. Council member Susan Marolt agreed the renovations to the building were necessary but worried the expansion would come too late for parents who are on child care waitlists now but would age out of pre-kindergarten once construction was complete.
“Do we know that our population is still producing young children?” she asked. “I mean, we can look at the waiting list, but do we have anything that looks further out than that to see whether young families can and will or want to move out here?”
Snowmass hired a consulting group to conduct an early childhood education needs assessment in early 2022 that showed if there were jobs in and around Snowmass, people would still need access to child care, Kinney said.
“It’s not so much who’s having babies; it’s where the jobs are,” he said.
Council member Alyssa Shenk agreed the need is there to update the child care facility, but the town will need to get creative to ensure it can attract and retain teachers and keep the facility open five days a week without reduced hours.
“I think looking at it, it makes a lot of sense, the number of classrooms, the number of kids,” she said. “People don’t want to drive their kids into Aspen or go downvalley; if we can accommodate it in the village, that would be great.”
Christina Holloway, a long-time childhood educator in the valley, took over as director of the Little Red Schoolhouse in December 2021. She opened her first child care center in the valley in 2016, called Woody Creek Kids, and is opening a third child care center in the Aspen Airport Business Center called Tiny Pines at the end of November.
She and Woody Creek Kids are part of a broader project team for the Little Red Schoolhouse expansion.
The Little Red Schoolhouse in Snowmass Village is looking to double its student capacity after 2025 to offer much needed child care in the Roaring Fork Valley.