Nonprofit Carbondale Kindergarten Seeks Donations to Expand New Facility

Little Blue Preschool teacher Brynlee Elswick gives preschoolers the preparations for running on the grass mound in the outdoor play area at the school’s new location at 55 N. Seventh St. in Carbondale Wednesday, September 29, 2021.
John Stroud / Freelance Post

A renovated daycare center in Carbondale could double its capacity in the near future with community support.

Little Blue Preschool, a non-profit daycare and sister program of El Jebel’s Blue Lake Preschool, moved into a renovated residence at 55 N. Seventh St. in July, and the organization is asking for donations to help fund the second phase of renovation, scholarships and teacher retention programs, said Kathryn Sansone, who works with the preschool to promote the fundraising initiative.

Sansone said the preschool was looking to raise around $ 1.5 million over the next three years, and on Wednesday she said she had reached almost half of her goal with the help of large donations. Alpine Bank, Valley View Hospital and Aspen Skiing Co..

Blue Lake and Little Blue Preschools manager Michelle Oger said the child care program started in El Jebel as part of the Blue Lake real estate development in 1993. In 2000, Blue Lake Preschool moved to a not-for-profit model, offering the ability to raise funds and apply for Funding.

“We got a permit for 31 children a day, ages 1 to 5, at Blue Lake in January 2002,” Oger said. “Now we have a license for 134 kids at Blue Lake and 38 kids at Little Blue, ranging in age from 6 weeks to 10 years old. “

Little Blue opened in a rental home on Eighth Street in Carbondale in 2015, but after the facility’s three-year lease ended, owners switched to a monthly format. Oger said this created a sense of insecurity for the preschool board, which is made up of a combination of parents of children enrolled in the program and community members.

Little Blue Preschool teacher, Bostyn Elswick, reads and interacts with children in the toddler class in the new school facilities at 55 N. Seventh St. in Carbondale on Wednesday September 29th.
John Stroud / Freelance Post

After a three-year search, the organization purchased the Seventh Street location with a construction loan, Sansone said.

“On Friday (October 1) the loan will switch to a standard mortgage with the initial renovations completed,” she said. “That’s why we chose this day to host our grand opening and launch this fundraising initiative. “

Little Blue’s new home cost around $ 1.3 million, but Sansone said the money from the fundraiser wouldn’t be used to pay off the entire loan. Approximately $ 500,000 of the donation is expected to be used to build additional classrooms at the facility, increasing the capacity to approximately 45 students per day.

An additional $ 250,000 could be spent on teacher retention programs, including efforts to keep pay rates competitive and provide scholarships to underprivileged families, Sansone said.

“It is not only difficult to keep good consistent teachers in this valley, but it is also extremely important for the learning and development of our children,” she said.

Preschools currently have 214 students enrolled, although few attend each day, Oger said.

“From Glenwood to Aspen, and possibly beyond, there just aren’t enough childcare options,” she said, adding that her three children have gone through the program. “We see a lot of kids who could be with us two days a week, then with a grandmother another day or family friends and end the week with an unlicensed caregiver at someone’s home.”

But even with hundreds of students enrolled, Oger said the preschool waiting list has more than 200 families, some of whom may wait years to receive a preschool place.

“We get dozens of calls every week about availability,” she said. “Some people move to the valley believing that they will be able to find care immediately with no idea how few options there are here.”

Sansone, whose kindergarten son is enrolled in the program, said increasing Little Blue’s capacity would go a long way in solving some of the valley’s child care issues.

“Michelle and her team have done a really good job stretching every dollar they have, so I know these funds will be put to good use,” she said. “As a parent, I am extremely grateful for the quality of Michelle and her team.”

For more information on Blue Lake and Little Blue Preschools and their fundraising initiative, visit

Journalist Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at [email protected]

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