City of Aspen launches search for new daycare operators
As two child care providers begin to wrap up operations in the City of Aspen-owned Yellow Brick building after negotiations with city officials failed earlier this year, the city government will not has so far been unable to find replacement operators.
The city and its taxpayer-subsidized child care program, Kids First, issued a request for proposals last month from licensed child care providers interested in operating three classrooms at Yellow Brick.
No bids came in by the deadline, which was Monday, according to deputy city manager Diane Foster. She said the main problem is that child care providers are struggling to hire enough early childhood educators.
“While this has been a known problem throughout the Valley for many years, the problem is much worse than in the past,” Foster said via email.
She said she plans to repost the tender next week on the city’s website, send it back to local suppliers and post it on BidNet, a national tendering platform. for governments.
The city is looking to fill the void that will be left after the departure of Kadi Kuhlenberg, director and operator of Aspen Playgroup, which serves 18-month-old kindergarteners, closes June 3.
Additionally, Dawn Ryan, owner and manager of Aspen Mountain Tots, announced last month that she will be closing one of her classrooms that caters to toddlers beginning September 1.
None of the longtime child care providers have been able to meet the city’s new lease terms, requiring them to operate five days a week instead of their current four days a week.
They said the new leases are unsustainable because going five days a week will negatively affect the quality of their childcare programs and create staff burnout, and it’s not financially feasible because it will take hire more teachers.
“While I will continue to serve the community in the required 60 preschool slots, I will not be expanding capacity as the city envisioned,” Ryan wrote in a March letter to the city and Kids First officials. “I have pre-enrolled for the 2023 school year and will not be enrolling a new community child until 2024. I will be weaning my enrollment over the next four years, at which time I plan to close my doors permanently.
“There is no doubt that we need child care,” Ryan’s letter continues. “But the city has chosen to place this burden solely on private tenants of city-owned buildings, without fully understanding the impacts on these individual small businesses and without offering a support system to easily respond to their demands.”
The Kids First advisory board voted last year to change the terms of the lease to five days a week to increase the city’s capacity to provide childcare, which is a priority of the city council. of Aspen.
City officials were confident earlier this year that they would find new suppliers, given the subsidies the government is offering its tenants at Yellow Brick.
Ryan said she hasn’t heard from city officials since she sent the letter advising them she won’t be signing a lease in September 2022 for the second classroom that serves toddlers. small.
“It’s disappointing that they didn’t acknowledge that I wrote an email,” she said. “It’s quite disrespectful.”
Kuhlenberg said all but a few of her families have found other child care providers and wonders what kind of capacity the city is looking to fill if the Aspen Playgroup children were placed so easily.
“It completely undermines why (the city) is doing this,” she said. “It was not necessary because there is clearly a physical capacity.”