Mare’s Playgroup isn’t replaceable

As Miss Mare’s daughter and Kadi Kulhenberg’s cousin, I am deeply saddened by policies set by the city of Aspen and Kids First’s Director Shirley Ritter that are forcing Playgroup to close this summer.

My mom created Playgroup 29 years ago. After teaching with my mom seasonally for over a decade, my cousin Kadi took over the school in 2016. I won’t try to capture here how immeasurably and specifically these women have treasured each child they’ve taught at Playgroup — 300 words couldn’t suffice.

In the dialogue surrounding the lease terms, the factor that has been most saddening to me is the language city officials and Shirley Ritter have used that present Playgroup as replaceable. Public comments on “looking forward to having new operators” demonstrate a shallow understanding of the relationships that Playgroup has built and the young people it has touched over the past 29 years.

Ultimately, this entire situation points to the misdirection of having early childhood education policies set by people who do not work with the children, do not understand the needs of educators, and are not adequately receptive when educators try to fill that knowledge gap. And the consequences are real — Playgroup is closing.

All said, I also want to take the space to sincerely thank all of the community members who have in some way been connected with Playgroup over the years. I cannot begin to communicate how deeply my mom, Kadi and their teachers will always cherish your children.

Isabel Wolfer